Writters: Eva O’Connor and Hildegard Ryan
Reviewer: Sarah Hoover
It is always a challenge to introduce alternate methods of storytelling to audiences more familiar with straightforward narrative. While The Friday Night Effect does so with a simple mechanism, it promises more agency in its audience interaction than it actually delivers.
From the beginning, instructions to the audience are contradictory. “By sunrise,” we are told, “Collette (one of the three female protagonists) will be dead. Can you save her?” But we are also told to support decisions which we ourselves would be likely to make when asked to determine whether the women might have a drink or not, report sexual harassment or not, report domestic violence or not, etc, as though intimations of disaster should be ignored. At least some audience interventions have little narrative impact. For example, we decided that Jaime wouldn’t push the unstable Collette farther by revealing that Collette’s abusive boyfriend had forced himself on her. But Collette’s entrance as Jamie and Sive discuss the incident voids our decision – which happens in life as well as on the stage, but leaves the audience with a clear sense that the voting mechanism is just a gimmick.
On the other hand, what that mechanism does accomplish is a closer sense of being together as an audience. Sunday’s Child has skillfully determined the precise length of time needed to push audience members into heated but respectful discussion. And the well-rehearsed performances are enjoyable as a demonstration of skill. Switches between internal monologues, flashbacks, and present action are handled effortlessly and with excellent comic timing.
In the end, The Friday Night Effect is supposed to make us think about the little decisions we make as cumulative in determining who we are and how we affect the people around us. In that, it succeeds. The person next to me said ruefully: “We are terrible people.” Perhaps, but the choose-your-own-adventure style theatre lets us do better next time.
Runs until 23 September 2017 | Image: Contributed