Votive Theatre’s Choose Your Fighter is an attempt at bridging the gap between a single-player video game and the performing arts. With a bounce in their step and a repetitious sequence of movements, four actors await the audience as they enter the space at Camden People’s Theatre. Simulating a character select screen, the audience gets to pick their main character by finding their seat in the auditorium. Illuminated in red, green, yellow, and blue each seat in the theatre in the round features a set of headphones. Depending on the colour headphones the audience decides to place on their heads, their main character is selected.
Red, green, yellow, and blue are the colours of Craig (Daniel Luiz), Dee (Miguel Barralus), Freya (Georgia Koronka), and Amber (Jess Pentney) – Choose Your Fighter’s enigmatic protagonists. The four young adults are connected through more than a platonic friendship. Although never quite labelling their relationship, the characters appear to be in a polyamorous constellation with each other. And as most queer storylines go, one of them is struggling to come out to their parents about their sexuality. In the wake of her parents’ thirteenth wedding anniversary, Amber is torn between the option of attending the party on her own or being accompanied by one of her three partners at the risk of having her sexual interests exposed to the whole family. And so, Amber finds herself having to decide between pleasing her partners and figuring out what is best for herself. However, of the internal struggles, the audience members solely get to experience a quarter of them. Headphones that are tuned to the protagonists’ microphone channels capture the one-sided dialogue and are designed to give insight into the individual’s thoughts and feelings. Unfortunately, technicalities make Amy Crighton’s Choose Your Fighter a challenging piece of theatre.
Throughout the 80-minute-long show, it is not seldom that the viewers’ headphones lose their connection to the main switchboard, fail to tune into their designated channel or simply do not pick up enough volume from the actors’ microphones. The lack of consistency in connection makes it a challenge to follow writer Katrina Bennett’s storyline and prevents the audience from immersing themselves in their main character’s world. Rather than achieving an up-close experience of one side of a bigger story, Choose Your Fighter becomes a muddled collection of dialogue and barely audible monologues. With headphones on, one is bound to be distracted by technical difficulties and without them, it is impossible to follow the story as the characters’ conversations all happen at the same time.
What sounds like a great performative concept in theory, fails to deliver in practice. And whilst the very personal experience of listening to a stranger’s voice through a pair of headphones is meant to bring the audience closer to their “fighter,” the headphones come to be the barrier that disengages the audience from the performance.
Review: Shirley Both