By Meredith Jones Russell
Transporting audiences back to 1979, when Britain was on the brink of political collapse for the second time in a decade, Parabolic Theatre’s disconcertingly timely immersive live-action board game Crisis? What Crisis? is a thrilling opportunity to put yourself in the driving seat of power.
Inflation is up, lorry drivers are on strike, and the Labour government is facing a vote of no confidence with a working majority of zero. As unimpressed civil servant Karen ushers you in to your emergency HQ for the evening and assigns you to a government department, you are quickly briefed on your tasks for the evening.
Audience members can choose from a variety of activities to attempt to manage the escalating political chaos, from addressing the press to crunching the numbers to manning the phones, but as you make decisions you will reap the consequences as the plot will alter accordingly, resulting in an entirely different performance every night.
The quick-thinking and wildly talented cast rise to this challenge admirably, never missing a beat regardless of what their audience throws at them. They seamlessly guide you through a labyrinthine plot and make space for everyone to get involved, from the keenest would-be politicians or performers to the quietest introvert hiding at the back. Whether you sit at the negotiating table with union leaders or help hoover the floor, everyone will be given a chance to contribute and the generous cast make everyone feel comfortable throughout.
Occasionally the twists and turns can be hard to follow, but the cast are always on hand to clarify things, and the attention to detail proves a pleasant distraction if things ever get too plot-heavy. The props, costumes and set design are beautifully period-appropriate and an almost sepia tone washes over the whole room. There’s even rolling Ceefax to enjoy along with refillable cups of tea when everything starts to get stressful.
And stressful it will get – although hopefully never so much as the night I attended, when a series of dubious political and economic decisions by a woefully under-qualified and incompetent Cabinet ended in the country crumbling and ultimately being taken over by a military coup.
Lucky, then, that this is just an entertaining and diverting performance about the now distant past, and has absolutely no relevance to our current political reality. Right?
Crisis? What Crisis? runs through 8 December in London.
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