On Sunday night, after a lazy day on Wandsworth Common, I found myself underneath Shoreditch Town Hall for an ‘immersive underground adventure’. It’s not often I find myself adventuring on a Sunday, even less often that it’s under East London. As usual with any hip theatre-going occasions, I was the plus one for Elisa, my talented director flatmate. The play was created by a fellow director friend of hers, so we were there for industry support, without a clue as to what we would find.
The premise to the play was:
‘It’s 1961 and the Cold War is reaching boiling point. East and West are on a collision course as revolution erupts in the small nation of Al-Khadra. Will this jewel of the Middle East become a lucrative ally or a dangerous enemy? As a world leader in this moment of crisis, your choices will determine the course of history.’
I went in thinking of a mash-up of the West Wing and Homeland, and slightly concerned about the gambling chip and blindfold we were presented with. The chip turned out to help determine which ‘side’ we were on, US or USSR. Elisa and I were split up, and we were led to different sides of the same room, me glaring at her across the aisle (I’m not usually a fan of audience participation).
It turned out to be one of the most diverting hours I’ve had, and definitely one of the most interesting plays to be a part of. Essentially both sides made choices (whether they were perceived or real is another matter) as to how to deal with the Cold War crisis in the ficitious Al-Khadra region. Should the US nuke the small village to save the big city? Should we assassinate a key player in the local rebellion? Should the USSR cooperate or fight back when summoned? Various tools of choice were used; a clicker, blindfolds so we couldn’t see the other side’s choices, standing up, raising hands. All very democratic and how I imagine days are spent in political chambers around the world, between copious cups of tea and surreptitiously reading a Kindle.
I found myself gripped throughout. The two actors, Simon Carroll-Jones and Robert Macpherson, were fantastic as their respective Russian and US political figures, working well together and with the audience, and being kind to those who were plucked for further interaction. Although we all know how the Cold War ends, it was surprising to feel so interested and invested in ‘making the right choice’.
Unfortunately the play ends next weekend, so you haven’t got long if you want to get to see it.