Times Vary Aug 1-25, not 5, 12, 19
This new show from multiple fringe First-winning company Belgium’s Ontroerend Goed and Australia’s The Border Project put the power in the hands of the audience to vote for your favourite candidate amongst five actors. ‘Five performers, five rounds, your vote, one survivor’. Fight Night makes elections a theatrical game and comes across between ‘Big Brother’ and an Italian general election.
As the audience member you are handed a voting pad whilst entering the auditorium. Once seated you are greeted by a tubby bespectacled host in a checked suit who conducts the voting in a flat voice, and is monitored by two boffins behind the screen. We test the technology with some warm-up questions to determine the average age, relationship status, sex and finances of the audience. Following this little exercise, five “candidates” march out into the ring, cloaked in black boxing robes. At the start you vote for your favourite, purely on appearance. A winner is then declared and we hear their voice for the first time, a single one-line that introduces them to the audience.
Throughout the rounds of voting, the various candidates make coalitions to strengthen their positions and elimate other candidates. So will our desired candidate make it through to the next round? And if not, who do we align ourselves to the most? Each actor appears to take a different stance on subjects that we vote upon, be it racism, religion, the type of voter they naturally appeal to, and answers to situations such as what they’d do in a hostage takeover. With each round we learn more about the candidates, and we vote for the one that appeals. As the voting narrows and more candidates leave the stage, it becomes apparent that the system in which we’re voting is mimicking that of the real democratic voting system we have here. At one point, the host “resigns” his position to become a candidate espousing “change”, ironically finding himself voted out in the very next round. And yet, considering that not a single candidate ever really proffers an idea, an opinion on government or issues or policy. With this in mind, one of the final candidates on the performance attempts to break the system, to rebel from it and force the system to collapse.In Fight Night the choice is eventually removed as the voting becomes narrow to the point of only two choices: vote for one candidate or leave the auditorium in protest.
It may not sound particularly theatrical, and it may not appeal to those driven to narrative-type theatre, but Fight Night challenges you to move from being a spectator to being an activist, to stand up for the right, or to continue to feed a system. Not every theatre company can ignite political passion in me, and it seems in a number of others too. One audience member became frustrated with the system at play and questioned why she had to vote at all, whilst other more conservative individuals happily voted upon each round with little consequence. Fight Night, like all Ontroerend Goed’s productions leaves many divided, but it can’t be denied that it is a company which continually pushes the ways in which it interacts with with audience, and with this produces challenging work that questions and provokes.
Reviewer – Robert Kerr