Reality at Ovalhouse
Reality TV can leave us scrambling for the remote, but reality theatre has no off-switch. Georgia Fitch’s play aims to be “an exploration of abuses of power in society”; a noble cause, and a timely one considering the class divides we still suffer post-credit crunch.
The cast are auditioning for a show rather ominously entitled ‘Hostage’, and are forced to engage in increasingly abusive exercises to earn a place on the show, and a chance at the cash prize. Reality promises to be a sociologically striking piece of theatre, turning the gaze of the masses back upon itself. Certainly the staging suggests as much – an audience seated in the round watching us watching them, screens and cameras abounding, with nowhere to hide from ‘big brother’.
Yet all the potential shown in the concept and staging proves stillborn upon delivery. Like all the shows it promises to examine, Reality aims to shock and horrify. Portrayals of humiliation are comically skewed and draw laughs from the audience. Stereotypes are pedalled and encouraged, with little evidence to show anything deeper behind the scenes; the compulsive lying chav, the back country bumbling idiot, and the gang man rebel all in attendance. The show has more in common with the culture it was supposedly critiquing.
It seems the more interesting the character, the less stage time they’re allowed. The quiet Irish girl spent most of her time on stage crying in a corner, and the erudite Christian was allowed only feeble protestations before his untimely exit. The redeeming character is Anya, played with kittenish charm and vulnerability by Kitty Archer. All bambi eyes and dirty lace, she remains oddly defiant through her public shaming, and faces down a possible maiming with terrifying calm.
Elsewhere, characters fall short of the lofty ambitions set out in the programme: Darren’s mental incapacity and accent both play as forced and false, and while the posh puppet master Oscar begins as a strong recognisable persona; the portrayal becomes overblown as the scenes progress, directorial choices that hamper otherwise able performers. Even the final twist could not save Reality from becoming that which it despises.
Reality is on at Ovalhouse until 27th June 2015, for further information or to book visit here.