Last Updated on August 2, 2021
Immersive theatre that will take you back to the 1970s.
Arriving at the New Diorama Theatre for a performance of ‘Crisis? What Crisis?’ presented the first of many surprises in an exceptional evening of immersive theatre. Being new to this form of performance, I was unsure of what to expect. My ticket, handed to me at the box office, was a replica Labour party membership card circa 1979. The audience was then escorted to a mystery venue in a nearby building.
After a brief reminder of the COVID-19 protocols, we were urged to step back in time as we arrived at the sign-in desk to the Labour headquarters of some four decades prior. Once the production began, any references to hand sanitiser were handily put down to ‘flu season’ by the cast. The set was remarkably detailed, with mock copies of The Sun referring to the famous headline from which the play takes its name, through to political campaign posters of the era and the cast members in full 70s attire. Audience members were allowed to wander around the set before the play began, organically interacting with cast members playing journalists, political operatives, or civil servants.
The political scene took the audience back to 1979 when Jim Callaghan’s Labour government had a working majority of zero. Parliament was deadlocked and workers were striking. The cast and audience comprise a group of parliamentary advisers, gathered away from the glare of the press. The brief is to prevent the Callaghan government from losing a vote of no confidence brought forward by the opposition leader, Mrs Thatcher.
It became apparent early on that this was going to be a theatrical experience unlike any other. Rather, ‘Crisis? What Crisis?’ was more like a giant role-playing board game, with audience members calling the shots and the cast adapting accordingly. Participants were divided into groups and could plan political strategy, use a rotary phone to convince MPs to support the government, or speak to the press in radio or TV interviews. Audience members were able to get acquainted, bouncing ideas around about how best to convince a trade union leader to call off a strike, or what political slogans would play well with the press. Participation was never compulsory but direct engagement with the actors and with the set itself made this theatrical experience unique. The production was so dedicated to this immersive experience that the prices at the bar rose and fell to match the inflation brought about by our group’s economic policies.
‘Crisis? What Crisis?’, written by Tom Black and directed by Owen Kingston, is a creation of Parabolic Theatre. Based in Croydon, the company produces interactive and immersive theatre with a social and political theme, with productions set in different historical periods. Several of the cast specialise in immersive theatre, with its unique blend of board-game style play and acting offering an engaging and dynamic experience for the cast members as well as the audience.
Photos credit Alex Brenner.
New Diorama Theatre,
15 – 16 Triton Street,
London, NW1 3BF
Box office: 020 7383 9034 (14:00 – 18:00, Mon – Fri)
For a different kind of immersive experience, check our review of Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience