Pros: This production is truly immersive, with audiences influencing the direction of the piece. It examines the process of genocide with an immensely creative approach.
Cons: To communicate the horror of genocide, the show needs to go further and have a distinct ending.
From the bar, an usher takes small groups of audience upstairs in the lift. Rather than a theatre or conventional performance space, we find ourselves in a large, well-lit room on the fourth floor of an office block in Farringdon. This is Theatre Delicatessen’s London base: they repurpose empty office buildings into arts centres. Due to the nature of the space, it doesn’t suit traditional theatre pieces. However, No Feedback is progressive in style, using immersive performance techniques to create an audience experience following the ten steps of genocide, the results of research by Genocide Watch.
We are all at some sort of meeting, one that feels clinical and futuristic. This is partially due to the deliberately robotic delivery and movement from the 6 women in pink dresses who take turns manipulating each other, like puppets. Asked to put our things on hooks lining one wall, we are all supplied with a “kit” that will take us through the latest medical testing procedure to determine our “CalMag” score. From our score, we are then separated into two groups. One group is the intelligent, delicate minority.
I am in the other group, the Anchovy Eaters. Determined by our diet preference and skin sensitivity, we are told to collect our badge from one side of the room and to stay there. Our badge is an actual dead fish, decorated with rhinestones. It stinks. I pin it to my top as directed, like everyone else in the group. Part of me is internally screaming, “I’M A VEGETARIAN! WHY AM I WEARING A DEAD FISH???” but I realise I am obviously equivalent to a Jewish person in Nazi Germany, so keep my mouth shut. Even though the parallels are clear, it is disturbing how we are reassured that the segregation is so that we can fulfill our potential.
What also disturbs me is that no one tries to rebel. No one refuses to do anything and everyone follows instructions. I am inclined to go again now that I know what happens, but to behave differently and really challenge the structure of the show. There seems to be a lot of scope for audience individuality and within our groups, we can interact. If the production is robust enough, it should be able to deal with however the audience chooses to behave.
The six women in pink are a tight ensemble, showing the universal potential for genocide in the multicultural cast. The contact-based choreography combined with the robotic speech helps create a sterile, medical environment but the pink dresses indicated fun and frivolity – an excellent juxtaposition. Without a director, this is excellent devised work, performed by the creators.
Structurally, the only problem for me is the ending. We are simply abandoned in the room for several minutes and no one seems to know what to do. We chat amongst ourselves before a few of the Anchovy Eaters decide to take off their smelly badges. We are able to mingle freely and the atmosphere is relaxed, if a little confused. The end could have employed further segregation and extreme sensory stimulation to further emphasise the holocaust and genocide structure. Instead, the ending, or seeming lack of one, almost trivialised the event due to lack of follow-through.
This is an outstanding example of immersive theatre, where the audience can dictate the action and interact with each other and the performers. It just needs some minor adjustments to really drive home the ease in which societies can commit genocide on those members classified as different.
Producer: No Feedback & Theatre Delicatessen
Booking Link: http://theatredelicatessen.co.uk/js_events/no-feedback/
Booking Until: 6 June 2015