It’s 1979, and James Callaghan’s Labour government is tottering on the brink of disaster. The opposition, led by Margaret Thatcher, has called a vote of no confidence; inflation is at 7% and rising; the lorry drivers have come out on strike demanding a 20% pay rise, and almost every other union in the country is planning to follow them. Following the so-called Winter of Discontent, the government has a working majority of zero: the headline in The Sun, following the Prime Minister’s denial of a crisis, provides the show’s title.
In this immersive drama, you and a couple of dozen audience members play political advisors tasked with saving the government from defeat in the upcoming no confidence vote, with only two and a half hours to do it. The event is set in a square office with all the trappings of the late 1970s: fax machines, period telephones, Ceefax, and a television screen showing the politicians of the day in news reports.
This is no passive theatre experience. You must choose one of three sectors in which to operate – political and press, economic, or crisis management. Guided by party officials, all your skills are needed to avert the looming crisis. This will involve haggling, persuasion, and sometimes threat as you interact with the major political players in the drama.
Telephones provide access to the outside world. Your challenge might be to negotiate with the head of one of the major unions, gradually raising your offers of pay increases and other benefits whilst bearing in mind that pay rises worsen inflation, and that other demands have an add-on cost to the Treasury; you might have to persuade wavering MPs to vote with the government; you might appear in radio interviews defending your decisions; you might even do a stint as a TV camera operator or programme director, as the evening builds to its conclusion.
Your choices will have a knock-on effect in every area of government. Should you send in the army to take control in the wake of the air traffic controllers’ strike? If you offer the Textile union 17%, will that produce a corresponding wage claim from the Steelworkers’ union? How can you leverage MPs to secure their support? Which new advisors should you call in – the Lieutenant Colonel to run the army operation, or the academic to manage the economy?
Immersive theatre has never been quite as immersive as this. You and your teams make all the decisions, and the evening threatens to end in disaster or defeat as events catch up with you, depending on how you collectively choose to run the country.
The team of actors portraying party officials, union leaders and Treasury employees keep solidly in character, never wavering from their allotted role. They guide the evening from crisis to hoped-for resolution, all the while making it clear that the decisions are yours, not theirs. The intricate plotting and the pace of revelations as the latest news is unfolded keep you on your toes at all times.
The success of a ‘show’ such as this depends on the enthusiasm and willingness to participate of the audience. If you’re prepared to immerse yourself in the politics of the late 1970s you’re in for a rare evening of desperate measures and tense negotiation. Crisis? What Crisis? feels so real you can almost taste it.
Written by: Tom Black
Directed by: Owen Kingston
Produced by: Parabolic Theatre
Booking until: 8 December 2019
Booking Link: www.designmynight.com/london/whats- on/immersive/crisis-what-crisis?t=tickets