There was a problem with the last series of The Factor. Viewing figures were down drastically and the producers need to do something urgently to get the show back to its former position of being No1. Although reflecting truth the previous sentence isn’t an analysis of last year’s X-Factor but is in fact the premise for a new play “Factor 2025” at the Leicester Square Theatre.
It is the year 2025 and Producer/Head Judge Trenton Powell (Johnny Tait) has a problem with his show, in fact he is suffering the most barbaric humiliation that can befall a show – moved from prime time Saturday evening on ITV to a Sunday afternoon slot on Channel 5.
But Trenton has a plan. Although Cheryl Cole and judges of her ilk were important to the show, the public like two things in their contestants, freakish no-hopers and people with a story they can love/hate in equal measure. This means that the ‘right’ people need to go through to the live shows and Trenton intends to make sure that happens. He will personally be involved in the audition stages of the programme, seeing the hopefuls close up and working out who he can mould like a pot of ‘Play Doh’ to get him back on top.
Using his ruthless control over his intimidated assistant Mellissa (Natasha Lamper) – a young lady with a very important secret of her own – Trenton devises a plan to get his show into the tabloids, preferably on the front page, before it even starts. While this scheme goes through with the speed of a TV dinner being cooked in a microwave, Trenton and Melissa start the auditions. A series of acts do their bit for Trenton, including the ultra-sweet duo Mary-Ann (Anna Watts) and her twin brother Sebastian (A J Formosa). The two are devoted to each other, and are always together. There is a slight problem with their singing – but lets be honest reality shows have never really worried about that – and Trenton (who should possibly go by the soubriquet of Machiavelli) – devises a nasty plan to ensure that they go on the show with the maximum interest from the viewing public.
Obviously he doesn’t care about their feelings; after all they are just commodities to be packaged and rolled out by Trenton whose only focus is the programme and himself.
As an audience member I found, “Factor 2025” to be a novel, and at times familiar story to watch. The audience were a part of the action (almost like extra members of the cast) from the start, watching the auditions and being warned that we, like the singers themselves, were basically not allowed to discuss the audition process or anything we saw or heard. This wasn’t really a surprise as, lets be honest, most viewers of reality TV are pretty convinced that they are more manipulated and controlled than Internet users having their TCP/IP addresses monitored by CGHQ. Writer/Director Johnny Tait has taken this idea to an extreme where it doesn’t matter how good or bad the auditioning acts are, it is only the story that can be wound around them that is important. And some of them were really good, with excellent performances by artists including Victoria Burrough, Tiffany Robinson, Jaz Alice and Rosie Bow giving us superb renditions of some of my personal favourite songs such as ‘Feeling Good’, ‘On My Own’ and the especially written highly irreverent song ‘I Hope I Get Through’. As with any audition process, there were the mad and bad as well and Marcus Gibson delivered a wonderful performance with four very different auditions, including the strangest version of ‘Cabaret’ I’ve ever seen, that had the audience rolling in the aisles.
All in all, this was a fun show to go and see, as was obvious from the highly enthusiastic reception of the audience. It has a story that probably isn’t that far from the truth and some fantastic ‘auditioning’ acts who will, In the words of Trenton himself ‘Go on to have wonderful careers and make lots of money”, the difference is, I actually mean it.
Review by Terry Eastham
Factor 2025 premiered at The Leicester Square Theatre on Saturday February 7th. It shows the future of TV talent shows as seen through the eyes of comedian Johnny Tait, who has himself worked in variety for 37 years. The year is 2025 and TV talent shows have hit rock-bottom.
What depths will the shows producer sink to in order to boost viewing figures? A cynical, comical and controversial look at the manipulation of the show’s participants.
Johnny Tait says: “I believe Factor 2025 will succeed where I Can’t Sing failed”
Sunday 8th February 2015