A play about a game show? Audience members voting on keypads? What is the world coming to, you could imagine some Minerva Theatre regulars muttering before taking their seats last night.
Granted, a play based on the life of ‘coughing major’ Charles Ingram, who cheated his way to £1million on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? in 2001, is not typical playwright fodder.
And neither are parodies of Britain’s game shows, sandwiched between court case scenes, an actual pub quiz and a ‘live’ recreation of the infamous episode, with a camera feed projected on giant screens.
But audience participation and a multimedia production was dish of the day in Quiz, a play preoccupied with very ‘now’ issues: truth versus lies, reality versus fiction; justice as entertainment and vice versa.
The ‘trial by media’ theme reached its natural conclusion when the audience voted on whether they thought Ingram was innocent or guilty at different points in the show, with the results displayed a-la ‘Ask the Audience’.
It was an interesting social experiment, seeing how the production – loosely framed like a court case, with a case for and against Ingram - manipulated us, the play’s jury. Ingram went from being 79 per cent guilty at the interval to 34 per cent guilty by the end.
They say don’t work with animals or children, but it extends to theatregoing adults too, myself very much included
Yes it was a bit evangelical, hitting us over the head with its apparent ‘Justice for Ingram’ message. I voted against the expected result, purely because I wanted to see how the play would handle an unexpected outcome.
And therein lies the danger of audience participation; they say don’t work with animals or children, but it extends to theatregoing adults too, myself very much included.
The pub quiz, with its answers hidden throughout the play like Easter Eggs, was a good idea on paper. But in reality I was more focused on guessing the height of the Empire State Building than the action.
And when a grumpy audience member declared he did not want to participate in the re-enaction of a bygone game show, it made for toe-curling viewing.
Kudos to the cast though for steering the show through these moments – particularly Keir Charles, who played a gamut of game show legends including a giggle-inducingly accurate Chris Tarrant.
It is an ambitious and timely play in our era of ‘fake news’ and social media vigilantes, but the main issue was it tried to do too much and focus on too much.
Did we need the history of the game show? Did we need the pub quiz?
I came away feeling like I had just missed out on the top prize, but nonetheless I was happy with my runner-up goody bag, filled with a variety of interesting treats.
Until December 9.