The Majority at the National Theatre
The Majority couldn’t be more grimly on the nose if it tried. With the dust yet to settle on the weekend’s events in Charlottesville, Rob Drummond stands in front of the audience and asks whether we would pull a lever to divert a train car, currently heading for no-one, onto a track where it would kill a lone neo-Nazi. It’s just one in a series of questions posed by Drummond ostensibly designed to cause us to reflect on democracy, the potential tyranny of the majority and the erosion of our modes of discourse.
There are two main strands to the show: a story about Drummond meeting a left-wing radical around the time of the Scottish independence referendum and the newly political path it leads him down; and the voting. Gradually the two become more and more intertwined, allowing Rob to ask questions that begin to have a greater impact on the shape and resolution of the show.
Starting with table-setters – yes, the audience is overwhelmingly white (91.8%!) and liberal – Drummond moves to knottier issues, like whether voting should be mandatory or is violence sometimes the answer? When neo-Nazis, both “real” and perhaps imagined, begin to appear, things get truly murky.
Every question is a binary: yes or no. The time to respond is minimal, at most 30 seconds. The practical reasons for this are obvious, and even with the relative speed of the answers the constant questions do bloat the running time. The flaws with this method in part serve to reinforce some of Drummond’s points: our form of democracy is far from perfect, and often leans too much on gut instinct instead of ethical or political introspection.
Yet at the same time passages of the show can’t help but feel shallow. The consequences or reasons behind each result are never really addressed; like the Lyric Hammersmith’s Terror it leaves the key part – how and why we reach our decisions – off the table. At the end of the performance Drummond does make a move towards resolving this issue. After asking the closing question – is abusing someone for holding an opinion a helpful thing to do? – he inquires whether anyone who voted yes would like to offer up a why. One short, blunt answer later and the show is over, Drummond stating he will be in the foyer to continue the conversation.
There is so much in his final rallying cry for nuance that rings true, especially the acknowledgement that there is no difference to feeling “right” or “wrong”. It’s just so damn frustrating that many of the questions feel cheap, the “oooohs” elicited from the audience based on increasingly grisly brain teasers rather than attempts to start a real debate.
Photo: Ellie Kurttz
The Majority is at the National Theatre from 11th until 28th August. For further information or to book visit their website here.