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Review: Standard:Elite (Bedlam Theatre)

Whoever said politics and class couldn’t be fun? In Standard:Elite by Hidden Track, privilege is turned into a game; there are standard seats and elite seats. You’re assigned randomly when you enter the theatre and can earn or lose your status depending on how you play, and how lucky you get.

Photo Credit: Rosie Powell

The audience is told a story about a high-born boy made of clouds who falls from the sky and enlists a girl made of silk to help him return to the top. Storytellers Sophie MacKenzie & Elliot Hughes call upon the elite guests to make decisions about the plot using the “thumbs of judgement”, while those in standard seating are called upon to assist in tasks and games like serving tea cakes to the Elites and smuggling kittens past a blind border patrol officer.

This is audience interaction at its very finest. Not only are all the games and scenes fun and imaginative, but they are all thematically relevant. Even details that seem random and convenient, such as characters that the Elites decide to erase by being struck by lightning, all tie into the story and theme of class injustice. It has both a Gruffalo-style charm and a caustic wit. At the end, there is no final, tidy resolution, no call to arms, only an admission that “no-body ever gets what they deserve”.

Photo Credit: Rosie Powell

That is not to say it is downbeat – it may be infused with cynical humour but it is an inventive, engaging and exceptionally fun piece of theatre. Standard:Elite is one of those rare shows that can turn an audience into a community, even when that audience consists almost entirely of strangers. Five stars.

Whispers from the crowd:

“It was ridiculous and great fun, it was audience interaction in a way that seemed joyous and fun rather than gimmicky.”

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