Unit 9, London
Guest reviewer: Ed Whitfield
When singing The Beatles’ 1968 hit ‘Revolution’, John Lennon was ambivalent about whether you could count him in or out. Exit Productions’ immersive Corbynite fantasy, a sort of Paul Mason wet dream, is a curious focaliser.
You enter, your blackened conformist soul crying out for the chance to indulge in some agitating, anarchic, system smashing mayhem, collateral damage be fucked (because you may be a software engineer working for a government department but you also like the Sex Pistols), and you leave with the deadening certainty that your political ideas amount to a half-baked reprise of your favourite New Statesman columns.
The show is a Blockbusters-inspired game (the company knows their target audience) played in a suitably austere, bare brick environment; the kind of locale suited to an underground gathering of would-be revolutionaries.
There’s a London spring in progress and on entry you’re asked to decide if you identify with strength or freedom, one of many false oppositions that play out over sequential rounds. The revolutionary faction you’re assigned, depending on your answer, jostles for hexagonal chunks of borough territory. Alas, there’s no prize for getting a horizontal or vertical line.
Your group, a couple of beards in my case, must think strategically, deploying resources to make and defend land grabs, while winning over the hearts and minds of the insurgent population using hastily drafted policy pronouncements and postage stamp propaganda.
It’s a think on your feet exercise that assumes a degree of political awareness. The actors, your minders and instructors, look on with wry amusement, trying not to break character as you try to defend positions dreamt up in 90 seconds, positions already tested against the increasingly assertive egos in your team. This, one imagines, is what it was like to be in Jezza’s first shadow cabinet.
The show’s a harmless exploration of consequence free agitation that jerks off your God Complex and invites reflection on what you’d do to achieve the common good in this morally bankrupt worlds of ours. I had hoped for genocidal maniacs and monstered metrosexuals in my game, but instead found myself up against a South American social democrat who believed in liberating the ignorance of the populous via direct democracy and Cuban-style public services. I was assisted by two increasingly pushy proponents of Scandinavian socialism, who dreamed of a universal basic income, presumably to enable them to attend more shows like this one, while having enough left over for Sufjan Stevens gigs.
The big take away from Revolution is those minded to reimagine the world instinctively look for blanket, and therefore, reductive solutions. If the tight time frame of each round, robbing participants of the opportunity for nuanced thought, was engineered to comment on the knee jerk foundations of Utopianism, I could relate. If not, the worst criticism one can make of the show is that at ninety minutes it’s too short to play meaningfully, that is to say, thoughtfully, and a show with no time to think is the antithesis of what political theatre should be about.