LondonReviewSpoken Word

The Majority – National Theatre, London

Writer: Rob Drummond
Director: David Overend
Reviewer: Stephen Bates

Sometimes it feels as if the only thing that can be said in favour of democracy is that it is infinitely preferable to any conceivable alternative. Rob Drummond’s new 90-minute one man show sets out to expose the fallibilities, anomalies and contradictions of majority verdicts by asking the audience to make decisions and then to reflect on the consequences.

tell-us-block_editedThere is a buzz in the air on entering the Dorfman Theatre, which is configured in the round. Above the circular stage, projections show the activity inside a beehive and Jemima Robinson’s set design is awash with honeycomb shapes.

The sound of the swarm lingers in the ears long after Drummond has begun to tell his story, a train of events triggered by his decision not to vote in the Scottish Independence Referendum. He takes a journey to beyond the northernmost railway station in the (still) United Kingdom in pursuit of a slightly nutty left wing beekeeper who is waging war on Scotland’s answer to the Ku Klux Klan.

The audience is given electronic keypads and, at several points, Drummond asks for votes, which he claims can alter the course of the show. To get things moving, he asks very basic questions and, at this performance, he ascertained that the majorities in his audience were white, female and liberal; only 8% supported Brexit. More surprisingly, a majority supported the admission of latecomers to the auditorium, giving Drummond the opportunity to embarrass them on stage. The audience opposed having an interval, thereby casting aside the needs of the incontinent.

The most serious question being asked by Drummond and illustrated in his story, is to what extent can a liberal person tolerate opposing views when such views are (in that person’s opinion) clearly and incontrovertibly wrong. On most evenings, it is likely that audiences will claim to be liberal and also claim to oppose the use of violence as a means to achieving any end. Are these two positions always compatible? News coming from Charlottesville, Virginia on the day of this show’s opening underlines the urgency of the writer’s concerns.

Directed by David Overend, Drummond prowls around the stage, drawing in the audience. Sometimes he looks genuinely hurt and perplexed when verdicts do not concur with what are, perhaps, his own views. At other times, he shrugs and accepts the inevitable. At intervals, he stops and the stage darkens, leaving a single spotlight on him, and he sets a series of moral conundrums which gets us to ask ourselves why, faced with slightly different situations, we might take life and death decisions that could be seen as inconsistent with each other.

The Majority is an amusing diversion that succeeds in its objective to be thought-provoking, even if many of the thoughts that it provokes may prove to be no more than fleeting. Skillfully, Drummond keeps the show buzzing and all that it needs is just a little more sting.

Runs until 28 August 2017 | Image: Ellie Kurttz

 

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