Theatres have brought the stage to the cinema and they’ve brought it to your TV but have they ever brought it to you? Well now you can get on stage and fight climate change in an interactive casino.
Creators Dylan Frankland and Madeleine Allardice of Kill The Cat Theatre are bringing The House Never Wins, an undercover agitprop piece of immersive theatre, to a Zoom call near you this lockdown.
Waiting in the virtual meeting room, curious and critical, panicking that I hadn’t followed the instructions and pressed the right buttons on the computer, I desperately tried to remember anything I could about being in a casino. Superfluous worries since Dylan Frankland’s character takes all players through a collective tutorial smoothly and efficiently upon entering. For the next 90 minutes or so The Dealer (Madeleine Allardice) whisks the audience through several rounds of blackjack, folding in twists and turns with a sprinkling of forfeits and punishments all the while reminding us to donate our winnings to maintain “The House”. In short, there was a lot to focus on (I haven’t even mentioned the secret WhatsApp messages) but to its credit or not, it reflected a key reality of our global warming crisis: often saving the Earth is put on the backfoot while we strive to achieve in our individual human lives, but we must work harder to strive to achieve as humanity.
The metaphorical casino concept is a stroke of genius. An unfortunate majority of political theatre perpetually preaches which, you would have thought we had learnt by now, leads to their audiences’ ambivalence and dismissive disinterest. However, here we see engagement mold with education. Tonally, the piece tickled and terrified the reasonably wide demographic at play, matching tongue-in-cheek fake adverts with difficult-to-swallow painful truths about global warming.
Despite keeping up a strong pace, the performances reflected trainee casino staff rather than professionals which let some of the authenticity of the piece bleed out. Perhaps it comes down to opening night nerves, but that air of professionalism felt necessary to keep the stakes of the game as paramount as those of climate change.
Considering the company originally had this set to tour on a real life stage before lockdown commenced, the turnaround deserves a hearty applause. The result is riveting and not to be missed. It’s not often you find live theatre that can meet you on your doorstep and so I hope the show receives the audience it deserves.
Far more than alternative lockdown entertainment, The House Never Wins paves the way for an exciting new wave of immersive theatre with three intrinsic hallmarks of the medium; easy access, effortless execution and essential evocation.
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Review: Vivienne King