Mike Bartlett’s playwriting genius nails the ultimate reality television game show...
“If this was Holland we could do euthanasia“
Mike Bartlett is the playwright to watch with last year’s brilliant future history play in verse, Charles III cornering best play nominations and wins. At Rupert Goold’s Almeida, an exciting alternative to the National Theatre, along with director Sacha Wares, Bartlett envisages where the public’s taste for reality will take us.
This satire is based on the potential extremes of humiliation on reality television as entertainment but combining this as theatre, in so far as the paying public watch the action live from “hides” as if they were bird watchers, or more appropriately, big game hunters in Africa. Game presents a cross between the style of television’s Big Brother and a snuff movie.
The theatre has been reconfigured into four discreet hides where around 30 people sit on benches with cushions covered in camouflage fabric, watching the action and listening through headphones. We meet the paying public, either on screens or in the individual hide, when new employee and de-mobbed soldier David (Kevin Harvey) hands them a rifle and explains the game. Each shot costs £500 and they have to pay again, if they miss and want another shot.
Running in parallel with the introduction of the paying guests, we meet the human prey. Liverpudlian homeless couple, Ashley (Mike Noble) and Carly (Jodie McNee) are induced into this game by the offer of a luxury home and a comfortable life style, apart from the catch, when they are shot, maybe with a tranquilizer dart which knocks them out completely. They sacrifice privacy in order to live in this well equipped glass walled house on two levels. The couple pay the intimacy price. A girls’ night out gets a group reduced rate for this sick entertainment and the affluent audience book up months ahead.
Seven years on, Ashley and Carly are joined by their son Liam (Oscar Bennett/Jonah Miller/Ben Roberts) now a new target for those who fancy themselves as child killers. Being the human target proves too much for Liam and the whole family wants to leave. Liam refuses to come out of a cardboard box and a troop of camouflage dressed soldiers surround the house for the end game.
Of course we the audience are another type of voyeur and the brilliant Bartlett’s one hour play is uncomfortable to watch but raises debatable ethical issues and holds a sharply defined mirror up to the public’s seemingly endless taste for the cruel.
Written by Mike Bartlett
Directed by Sacha Wares
Director: Sacha Wares
Set Designer: Miriam Buether
Costume Designer: Alex Lowde
Lighting Designer: Jack Knowles
Sound Designer: Gareth Fry
Video Design: Leo Warner for 59 Productions
Movement Director: Leon Baugh
Running Time: One hour with no interval
Closed at the Almeida on 4th April 2015
London N1 1TA
Phone: 020 7359 4404
Rail/Tube: The Angel Islington
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge at the Almeida on 3rd March 2015