Rhum and Clay's Project Dictator is a commentary on democracy and dictatorships, utilising different theatre genres to do so. Showing both sides of the poltiical coin, this show slowly declines into a Kafka-esque nightmare.
Project Dictator appears to be two plays as one. Starting with a painfully realistic liberal play ‘How to Solve the Problems’ which follows Tobias (Matt Wells), a self-described cross between Macron and Jesus, as he campaigns for office, which is then usurped by Jeremy (Julian Spooner), leading us in a populist mob. The second half follows the two performers who for some inexplicable reason are forced to act as mimes. This part of the show contrasts vividly to the first half as where the first was funny, this second part is a lot more threatening mostly because we don’t know exactly what is going on. However, considering this is only really clear what is going on after reading more information on the show afterwards, this perhaps.
The performance and storyline are clever. We’re drawn in by Spooner, he does make the show more exciting and it is fun to watch him cause chaos and upend everything. Creating parallels and mixing reality with fiction, it is difficult to resist the dictator we see before us. After all, who could resist a leader that gives a press conference over the top of Bonnie Tyler’s I Need a Hero? And even when he starts making some demands of us that seem out of the ordinary, we do it, because he has set such a precedent, that we don’t take him as seriously as we should. It’s all fun and games until you’re asked to spy on the person sitting beside you.
The second half is confusing, especially as there is no explanation given, and it is not clear whether it is an extension of what we saw previously or something entirely separate. This ambiguity does bring a lot of tension into the theatre. The sense of not knowing generates a lot of fear and lets our imaginations run wild. Personally, I could live without the mimes, but what happens onstage could have easily stepped right out of the pages of Orwell or Kafka.
An intelligent analysis of the descent from democracy into totalitarianism, Project Dictator manages to balance the ridiculousness and bone-chilling nature of events that can come from the political arena.