Writer: Joel Samuels
Director: Liz Bacon
Reviewer: Mike Wells
Death is a subject rarely associated with celebration, but A Wake in Progress challenges this idea with a mixture of good humour and audience participation.
Tonight, we followed Daffodil’s story (her name decided by a member of the audience) played by Molly Small (also decided by the audience). The show begins with a bombshell as we discover that Daffodil is suffering from a terminal illness. The screw is tightened further when she then tells her lover she’s decided to refuse any further treatment and that she’s accepted her fate.
As one might expect, her choice causes rifts among her closest friends and family, and the rest of the play deals with the fallout.
As the play progresses, Daffodil begins to think about her funeral. She decides it’s unfair that everyone will get the opportunity to say goodbye to her, but she won’t be there to hear it. Consequently, she decides to hold a wake while she’s still alive. Not everyone likes the idea, but in a show of solidarity, they all decide to go through with it.
Audience participation is always risky, but the cast met the challenge head-on and made the audience feel included in the performance. From the moment the audience entered the auditorium they were greeted by the cast who created an environment in which the audience felt safe to share. Performing under such conditions is a unique skill, which suits some actors better than others. In this respect Small and Andrew David are appeared to be the most comfortable.
Incorporating suggestions from the audience is a great way of making them feel involved and giving them ‘ownership’ of the content. In places this worked really well where moments of tension were diffused with a slightly off-beat contribution. However, in incorporating too much, too often, there are moments where opportunities to create something really quite touching are missed.
The wonderful thing about theatre, and in particular audience participation, is that each performance will be slightly different from any other; you will see a version of something that no one has ever seen before. While this level of audience participation is not for everyone, it does make for a truly unique and memorable evening.
If you’re in the market for 60 minutes of good, sociable, interactive fun, then this is the show for you.
Runs until 10 February 2019. | Image: Ali Wright