Director: Alexander Devriendt
Reviewer: Marina Spark
Fight Night by internationally renowned Ontroerend Goed, a Belgian company who specialise in facing their audience with unattractive truths to provoke a strong reaction is playing at the newly refurbished Plymouth Theatre Royal. The audience’s opinions on Ontroerend Goed’s work are often divided, either loving or hating the award winning company. Fight Night is no exception.
The audience enter the auditorium with their voting pad, eagerly anticipating how the evening will roll out. The stage is set up very barely, with what loosely resembles a boxing ring (but without the ropes). The simple stage and staging throughout works perfectly, highlighting the spectacle that is democratic voting. Five actors, or candidates as they are referred to, enter the stage and to kick off the evening’s voting the audience are asked to vote for their favourite, based on nothing other than gut feeling and looks. As the rounds progress the audience is shown the importance of their vote as the candidate with the least votes is asked to leave the stage. However, this is where the show gets interesting. That candidate is able to form coalitions and as such save themselves from elimination, thus rendering the audience vote worthless.
As more candidates are eliminated from the game the strategy of, and manipulation by, each candidate is plain to see and the audience becomes savvy to it. The climax of the show comes when the audience are encouraged by one of the two remaining candidates to abstain and hand in their voting pad, sitting on the stage in protest. At this point there is huge potential for an even darker side to elections and human nature to be demonstrated. Mob mentality could have been cleverly highlighted here as the audience are asked to vote whether or not to let the abstainers stay on the stage or leave the auditorium. Unfortunately, the show did not delve so far into the dark side of a prejudiced majority and we were not taken down this more interesting avenue. The show lost a lot of its innovation and originality at this point and a tangible feeling of disappointment was felt. The closing of the show informed us of the identity of the majority voter, which was interesting to know, but felt like a bit of a damp squib and certainly didn’t prove to be explosive.
Fight Night is a relevant, interesting look at the rôle of a democracy, its merits and its injustices. It highlights the powerlessness and inequality that is brought by democracy but does not offer a strong argument for an alternative, the only other option banded about being anarchy. Clearly, this was Ontroerend Goed’s aim as it would seem that we are powerless to demand chance, but a little more drama, spontaneity and intrigue would have elevated the concept.
Runs until 12th October 2013.