When I hear the words ‘immersive theatre’, it conjures up that same fear I had as a child whenever a clown at the circus started searching for volunteers.
And this production was equally uncomfortable, but not for that reason.
Sandwiched between the Minerva and the Festival Theatre, the new spiegeltent was transformed into a typical London boozer for this production of Roy William’s 2002 play, ahead of its debut season of fringe entertainment in Chichester.
The audience had the best seats in the house for the qualifying match of Germany vs England in the 2002 World Cup, as racial tensions bubbling under the surface among the punters came to a boil as the pressure of the match intensified.
The acting was superb across the board – but particularly from Richard Riddell as the terrifyingly explosive football hooligan Lawrie and Mark Springer as tortured war hero Mark – and the set full of surprises, such as two-way mirrors and a live video-feed. The dedication to lighting was such that a Metropolitan police car was parked outside the tent to create the effect of blue lights flashing into the windows of the pub – and the bar was actually used during the interval, a nice touch.
As the football chanting descended into violence at the end of the first half, the space erupted. And we were right in the middle of the action.
It felt like at any moment one of the audience might accidentally get caught up in it – but it was choreographed to perfection, the actors in complete control of the chaos. This reached a fever pitch with the ending, which was relentlessly uncomfortable to watch; the frenzy so visceral that you could almost feel the spray of spit and beer on your cheeks.
But perhaps what was most unsettling of all was confronting the realisation that in this time of political division, we’ve not come as far as we might like to think in 20 years.
An absolute must-see.
Until November 2.