Interactive and thought-provoking are two words that can be used to describe World Factory, an immersive play directed by Zoë Svendsen and Simon Daw in collaboration with Chinese researchers Zhao Chuan and Wu Meng.

Quite often when a play is said to be interactive, audience members can be slightly sceptical and inquisitive. There is a pre-emption that an unsuspecting person will be singled out and embarrassed or harassed. World Factory does none of those things; it’s a play that aims to put the audience in the position of the many Chinese workers that produce a large amount of the clothes we wear. The bulk of the play is actually in the hands of the audience and I’d say the actors are more facilitators than actors.

In groups of five, audience members are expected to work through various tasks to complete the game. It’s a game of choice and decision, a game which is actually not a game but a reflection of what really happens in factory offices in China. I thought this was an effective way to get a message across. This is theatre that pulls the audience into the role of an actor representing the experience of a real-life person. This idea is reflected in some of the cards given out which had faces of real people with a brief description about them. Though the people could possibly be actors it still creates an element of reality.

The research and effort that has gone into World Factory shows that there’s more to the play than entertainment. At the heart of it lies a serious message of hard labour and how it benefits others. Playing the game allowed audience members to have real discussions on real issues and gain insight into the world of factory workers. There were statistics and web links given at the end of the play to summarise the choices made and give audience members a chance to do their own research. The approach taken to get the message across was direct, honest but not hard-hitting. While some may think a hard-hitting message may have more impact, it may have a more intense impact for a short time but will quickly phase out. It can be more effective to get audience members thinking and engaging with a play topic long after they have seen it.

There were videos, images and quotes on screens on the four walls of the theatre space; it deepened the reality when you saw real people, real factories and heard real stories. Technology is increasingly playing a major part in many plays today where crucial parts of a play may be experienced visually or aurally. Experiences can be relived and portrayed almost perfectly verbatim to an audience through digital hardware. I say almost perfectly verbatim as footage can be edited and in the context of a play could have a different message conveyed from the original message.

World Factory invites those in the consumer world into the world of the factory workers. It is an interactive play that is engaging, challenging and effective in relaying its message, a definite one to see.

World Factory is playing at the Young Vic until 6 June. For tickets and more information, see the Young Vic website. Photo by David Sandison.