Living Roots Festival
From early talent shows such as Opportunity Knocks through to about every other show on ITV right now, the audience deciding the outcome is nothing new. The theatre world has recently got on board too, ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ online shows, albeit mainly for children, having popped up regularly in the past year. When it comes to grown-ups, it is still very much in its infancy, with Netflix trying to push boundaries. Maybe not quite on the scale of Netflix, Chewboy Productions also seem determined to give it a go.
Their three-times Covid-postponed stage show, Tethered, promises to let the audience choose the running order. But not content to wait until that sees the inside of a theatre, they’ve been busy online, the latest offering being The Process. Apparently, at early screenings the audience answered a series of questions which were used to create the final edit; a “representative of the room’s overall worldview, perceptions, personality and feeling.” It would be interesting to see those questions, and just how they shaped things. Sometimes letting the audience decide can produce mundane results, the most average outcome winning, with any individual thought erased from existence. Rest assured, not here. Much like their previous show, The Zizz, this is bizarre, it is confusing, it is utterly compelling. Maybe because you are just desperate to work out what is actually going on.
It is split into three very different ‘chapters’, none of which seem to have any obvious connection to one another. Chapter One features an insomniac (Connor Read), desperately fighting for sleep, seemingly unaware someone else is in his home with him. Then in Chapter Two we see Venetia Cook’s artist struggling to create a new piece of work. Both are presented in a wonderful silent movie-esque way, using short snippets of film interrupted by narrative on a black screen, backed up by an increasingly sinister musical score. The effect is that the narrative has the feel of a third party looking on, taunting and encouraging in equal measure. It almost feels as if it could be responses from that initial test audience, giving instant feedback as they watch. It becomes more sinister during the second chapter, with a strong feeling that whoever is commenting is doing so from an abusive position of power.
The final chapter sees a change of style. Harrison Wilde and Mia McCallum don clown faces as the narrator finally speaks aloud. But it descends quickly into the same darkness as he begins to ask “what is happiness, is it fun, is it real?” Quite frankly by this point, I am so confused, I find myself just nodding along, almost afraid to question the evilness emanating through the screen.
It’s all wonderfully avant-garde, open to countless different interpretations. Does it make sense? Probably not. Does it matter when it’s presented in such an enjoyably creepy way? Of course not, sometimes you just need to sit back, shake away the utter confusion and try to come up with opinions on what it all actually means.
Written by: Georgie Bailey
Directed by: Georgie Bailey and Hal Darling
Cinematography and editing by: Hal Darling
Original score by: Ted Hayes
Produced by: Chewboy Productions
The Process is playing as part of Living Roots Festival, and is available until 17 April. Futher information and booking via the below link.