Meta-theatricality and interactivity are becoming all the more vogue in contemporary theatre, and in a world where the arts are becoming increasingly open and democratised, I find myself willing these techniques to be harnessed with the nuance, dramatic flair and social obligation they deserve. So often though theatre-makers miss the mark, whether that’s through being too didactic, too heavy-handed or just plain unenjoyable. It was with a great sense of relief and pride that I saw that the performance of Standard-Elite at The Warren this Brighton Fringe season have delivered just right.
Theatre-makers Hidden Track take a whimsical fairy-tale narrative and a cast of ethereal nature-woven characters akin to the fiction of Lewis Carroll, and spin it with fierce commentary on class struggle. The journey of a Lowground girl spun from cotton and a Highground Prince formed from clouds is aided by audience members who vote on how the story should unfold. The audience itself is divided into Standards and Elites given varying privileges, and a miniscule opportunity for social mobility which progresses toward a fiery rivalry. The childish adventure narrative begins to slowly unwind, as the promise of a happy ending feels more and more distant. The stern authoritative voice of the narrator splinters into disjointed confusion and the set dissolves into messy chaos.
Performers Sophie MacKenzie & Elliot Hughes light up the stage with their intoxicating creative energy and comedic prowess, delivering amusing characters and snappy improv, amidst an impressive handling of a clever and complex script. Handmade costume, props and puppetry aid the production’s rustic fable-like aesthetic and playful charm.
Standard: Elite is social commentary at its finest – creative, thought-provoking and masses of fun.
Photo credit: Joanna Higson