Pros: Fresh concept. Reinvents ideas about theatre.
Cons: Unpolished, lack of emotional connection.
REMOTE is a play unlike any other I have seen, or perhaps ‘participated in’ is the better word. Developed by Coney (creators of interactive theatre and games) it deconstructs the very concept of a theatrical experience and what results is a highly unique innovation. It allows the audience themselves to determine the progression of the plot and its outcome through the use of a piece of card, a modern equivalent of the gladiatorial thumb. The rough premise is a futuristic utopia/dystopia where you are the subject. Powered by the algorithms (Angela Clerkin and Tom Lyall) and your own collective choices, the subject steers through three separate time periods of their lives, each directly influenced by its predecessor.
This novel idea certainly made for a distinct encounter. Instead of stylised set design, the audience came face to face with two run-of-the-mill work desks, a light board and a very sci-fi tripod in the centre. It almost resembled a university presentation in its banality. I was impressed with the use of sound during the show, the sounds of the future were well executed and heightened the experience on a sensory level.
However, the play itself states that “stories are toys for humans” and in this case I felt it was played with too much. The themes of the experience were not clear. I felt that had they been taken more seriously, the production’s potential could have been increased exponentially. The actors were responding to many of the audience choices with humour, which seemed to not coincide with the serious message it was attempting to convey about the politics of choice. There were several breaks in the main plot where we experienced “The Fun” which was the two actors briefly dancing in their chairs. Perhaps more fun for the active participants than the audience!
It should be noted that when I reviewed this production, it was still in previews, so some of the following issues may have been addressed. None the less, with regard to the all-important audience choices, in many cases the choices themselves appeared either irrelevant to plot or inferred, and I noted some audience members not participating actively in the choices within half an hour. There were also several mistakes during the course of the interaction, some technical which could not be helped, but a rather large one in that the name of the main subject was changed halfway through, which completely bamboozled the audience. In all honesty, by the third time jump I had (quite literally) entirely lost the plot and was shocked by the very contrasting, and frankly baffling, ending. And judging by audience expressions upon leaving, I was not the only one.
All in all, I think that REMOTE had some great ideas, but perhaps a little less of “The Fun” and a little more concentration on its overall message, to avoid it becoming lost in the nether of the algorithms.