It’s rare to watch a play and feel that truly anything could happen, but tonight’s show threw caution (and risk assessments) to the wind, and I really didn’t know what to expect. One minute I was dropping a rubber duck representative of my dreams into a water-filled plastic tube, the next I was telling a hall full of people where I had my first kiss.
The play begins as any successful children’s play should: with mass bureaucracy. Upon arrival, each audience member was handed a pencil and a form to fill in, but this was unlike any form I’d completed before. It asked for my dreams and wishes rather than my National Insurance number or blood type. I exchanged my form for a rubber duck, spoke my dreams into a recording booth, and then deposited my duck into the tube. My evening got even less predictable from there, as I, the audience, and all our rubber ducks were transported into the brilliantly zany world of Broken Dreams.
There is a plot, and not just a throwaway one, which covers quite sensitive and sophisticated territory, accompanied by an artfully melancholy soundtrack. But what the audience most revelled in was the show’s anarchic tomfoolery, improvised interaction and ingenious technical feats. The performers’ affable antics achieved a result David Cameron could only dream of: very quickly, we were genuinely all in it together. The warm and jovial atmosphere made for audience interaction which was fun rather than frightening, even for a zealous attention-avoider like me – I managed to quickly compose myself after my particularly embarrassing contribution (it was in the garden, by the way).
There was an Esperanto song, a scene involving a tiny cardboard cut-out of Beyonce, some advanced Physics formulae, and a showpiece moment the like of which I have never seen in any play for any age. And all of the performers had great hair and outfits. More importantly, the show exhibited a sort of continental confidence in touching upon delicate ideas and issues. For me, one of the biggest takeaways from Imaginate is that European companies seem comfortable addressing concepts and problems which probably wouldn’t get past the infamous stiff upper lip of our little island.
I don’t want to talk politics, but if this Belgian show gives us any indication of Brussels sensibilities, we should be giving them more power, not less!
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