Imposter 22 at the Royal Court Theatre
Imposter 22 is a dark comedy whodunnit five years in the making, with seven co-creators (who also make up seven of the eight performers), all being Access All Areas’ learning disabled and autistic Associate Artists.
The show starts with the characters roping in the audience to help them with an investigation. A friend of theirs has been killed and they are all suspects who must now get their stories straight to clear their names. Enlisting someone to play the dead friend, they run through the events that occurred leading up to the murder.
The story feels a little lost at times, introducing lots of interesting points but often moving on before really delving into them. There are some good jokes but it could use more of the tension and the mystery that a good whodunnit has, deeper exploration of the characters and their motives and perhaps a more climactic ending.
Accessibility is often talked about when it comes to the theatre. But the question is usually: how can we help differently abled people watch shows? Imposter 22 asks the question: how can we help differently abled people create and perform the show? That gives this production an experimental theatre vibe, throwing out the rule book to try something new and push boundaries. There are chairs for the whole cast so they can sit if they need to, there are stagehands on standby to remind the cast of their lines, and other stagehands walking in and out to help set up props and scenes or even pass through a bottle of water. This is where Imposter 22 really shines, taking what would be considered a limitation by other shows and building an entire working production around it.
The accessibility doesn’t stop with the performers but extends to the audience too. A list of warnings for things such as loud noises is provided as you walk in, fidget toys and ear defenders are provided if needed and the audience are encouraged to respond to the show however they like, making as much or as little noise as they want. “Relaxed performances” have been around a while now but it feels like Imposter 22 has expanded on that concept and been much more thoughtful about how it should be.
And there has to also be a special mention of the set design. Before the interval, it’s a well-crafted space with cast/suspects stood in a semi-circle, able to comment on the proceedings taking place in front of them, an absolutely brilliant concept for a whodunnit. And during the interval, it goes through a major transformation that results in a real “Wow!” moment when the curtains go back up.
While Imposter 22 might still be refining its theatrical elements, its innovative approach to production and accessibility makes it a great case study for the industry. It’s a pioneering endeavour that warrants attention and applause.
Image: Ali Wright
Imposter 22 is at the Royal Court Theatre from 23rd September until 14th October 2023. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.