Take a naff idea, add a flimsy script, enrol a self-confessed talentless cast and bolt on some state-of- the-artless technology and you have a show that does exactly what it says on the tin: Losers. The title is not so much a hostage to fortune as self-fulfilling prophesy.
Losers is a production conceived by losers, written by losers, performed by losers and the biggest losers of all are the audience who have to put up with 75 minutes of puerile, witless, misogynistic claptrap whose only possible appeal would be to mindless morons or brain-numbed insouciant numb-skulls. Or perhaps Channel 4 in a power-cut.
No surprise, then, to discover that this originated as a student dissertation performance – “the culmination of 12 months of research into the ethics of participation and manipulation in both reality TV and participatory theatre”. Really? If it seriously takes 12 months to discover that reality TV game shows are mind-fluff for the masses then these Warwick University students were presumably not just on the piss but taking the piss as well. It’s certainly the best recommendation I’ve seen for higher academic fees, the withdrawal of student grants and a special new students-who’ve-forgotten-they-left-uni tax.
Arthur Jones as Arthur, dressed in bright red I-love- myself suit, is the token/obligatory (delete as the mood takes you) LBGT representative: so camp he must have been raised in Millets, in true reality-confession mode he nails his rainbow colours to the mast. Cue wall-to- wall, outmoded, eighties-pseudo-gender- mockery dressed up as “satire” but in fact no more than a thinly-veiled homophobic undercurrent. The world has moved on, people: that didn’t come up in your “research”?
Rachel Johnson as Rachel in a sophisticated this-isn’t-the-real-me green dress and Sophie Thompson (no not that Sophie Thompson) as Sophie in an orange prick-tease hot-pants suit invite all manner of everyday sexism in the name of witty banter. News for you girls – it ain’t witty and it ain’t banter. Once again the Emperor’s cloak of satire will be raised in the show’s defence but satire is subtle, ironic, hyperbolic and above all humorous. Pulling apart a woman’s figure, looks, physical features and bed-ability factor is none of these things: it’s crass misogyny of the most spurious kind and its in the script purely because it might get a laugh from those of a misogynistic temperament.
Tom Swale as Tom in a blue how-cool-am-I waistcoat has joined the original cast and is on hunk duty. He must be desperately hoping that his fifteen minutes is going to end early.
As to the audience participation: everyone is asked to write down a question all of which are passed to the contestants to randomly select one to read out. These all turn out to be about bodily functions and the answers are about as funny as colourless, odourless jelly. Pre-show, attempting to get in the mood, I asked “When did you last die on stage?” I wasn’t anticipating getting the answer so quickly.
We were also given an “electronic voting handset”: don’t be so bloody pretentious – it’s a zapper. These were clearly a con to make the audience believe they were actually voting, as the results came up on pre-prepared slides and having pressed orange on one round the result came up as “no votes” for orange. That concept might be a good one for a kids’ show though the content would not be appropriate as it is clearly aimed at those of far lower intelligence.
After each (samey and increasingly tedious) round the contestants, who are trying to impress a talent scout so that the best (or was it worst?) one will be picked for a new reality TV game show, are “rated” by the audience and the contestant who comes last has to undergo the inevitable penalty. So if your thing is watching someone consume a tin of cat food, staple a post-it note to an arm or drink a glass of water that the other three have gobbed in (yes, really) then you’ll love Losers.
But, hailing from Warwick, within spitting distance of Shakespeare’s birthplace, one might hope that a little bit of dramatic awareness would have rubbed off on this bunch. No such luck. They self-importantly proclaim that they are exploring “the ethics of participation”: it seems, therefore, that you can take the ethics out of students but it’s a hard job to get the ethics back in unless and until they grow up.
Review by Peter Yates
Prepare to be armed with an electronic voting handset. Prepare to meet four contestants who are dangerously desperate for the limelight. And prepare to witness, and make the decisions in, the most nail-biting TV gameshow of your life.
Arthur, Rachel, Sophie and Tommy are real people – not fictional characters – with a genuine ambition to break into the delectable world of primetime television. Sick of being snubbed by Brat Camp, Bake Off and even 24 Hours in A&E, they’ve concocted their own scandalous gameshow: a foolproof opportunity to show the industry what they’re capable of. And you’re not just invited. You’re invaluable.
Over eight explosive rounds, from the downright ridiculous to the uncomfortably intimate, the wannabes will dance, sweat, strip, gulp and gag for your approval.
So sit in the dark, press some buttons and watch the consequences unfold. Because every time one contestant gets closer to the elusive trophy, the others plunge further and further into oblivion. Come on. It wouldn’t be fun if they didn’t.
02.08.16 – 14.08.16
8pm Tues – Sun 1 hour
£10 Interactive 16+ (Stupidity & Violence Guaranteed)
Book tickets online