Come for an immersive ‘clubbing’ atmosphere and free face paint; stay for perceptive political dilemmas and great naturalistic performances. Not Too Tame’s
This is immersive theatre for people who don’t think they do immersive theatre.
Not Too Tame, who this year also bring us Early Doors (a raucous comedy set in a pub), are clearly well-versed in the dynamics of site-specific theatre. The atmosphere is spot-on as soon as you enter the club, and punters invariably have a lager or cocktail in front of them before the show starts.
The best things about Electric Eden, however, are its more traditional theatrical virtues, though undoubtedly aided by its setting in a neon sweatbox. The premise is a protest against leisure centre owner Alexander Sheldon, whose men’s forcible removal of karaoke-loving pensioner Anthony Eden from the premise meant his heart gave out. It sits perfectly in the contemporary political landscape of unaccountable corporations, shrinking public services and disenfranchised youth.
What’s great about the piece, though, is that it’s more complicated than a celebratory neo-Marxist call to arms. Greg’s (Andrew Butler) intellectual brand of socialism is challenged by the somewhat side-lined Grace Eden (Louise Haggerty), newly pregnant and skint, and John (Anthony Wright-Wilson), determined to give his all to support his family, even if the cards are stacked against him. John thinks Greg is just a layabout and his politics a naïve case of wishful thinking, but the play refuses to conclude whether Greg’s revolutionary ideas can lead to real change.
We get all of this through some excellent monologues, often with touching strains of naturalistic comedy. Haggerty’s speech to her unborn baby is a particular highlight, as is Butler’s attempt to explain social injustice via biscuits.
Being in the club and signing a petition against Sheldon on entry makes it much harder to view the action from a distance; this is our cause, too, not just the characters’. Director Jimmy Fairhurst successful manages to have his cake and eat it with a few tell-tale tricks of immersive theatre to reel the audience in, but putting most of the play’s weight behind conventional storytelling and characterisation.
This is immersive theatre for people who don’t think they do immersive theatre; even if you don’t get up on the dancefloor, the play is just as enjoyable. It’s a piece about rebellion and solidarity with one foot firmly placed on the ground, and definitely worth a watch.