As ever with posing a question to any given group, it’s all about how the question is worded, and what specifics need to be taken into account. This is something The Majority did very well for most of its running time, giving slightly different scenarios of the same situation before asking the audience for its opinion. This does not mean a free-for- all exchange of views but merely pushing a button on a voting pad to register ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. But at one point so many questions were being asked of the audience that it felt like one had telephoned an energy company with a query on their bill and had to navigate a series of menus before finally getting through to someone who doesn’t know their thighs from their elbows.
A pity, then, having considered a similar set of circumstances from many different angles, that the show’s final audience poll constitutes a single, vaguely-worded question about whether abusing someone for holding an opinion is a helpful thing to do. At the performance I attended, 87.64 per cent of the audience said ‘No’, which is fair enough – generally speaking, abusing people doesn’t help matters. But the question, as it was framed, seemed strangely disconnected from the narrative of the play, and a simpler and more narrowly-defined vote, asking whether a certain character was right to do what he did in the play, in the context of the plot, would have been more – well, helpful.
As Rob Drummond (playing himself) points out, it is hardly surprising that 90.55 per cent of this opening night National Theatre audience agreed with the statement ‘I am liberal’. Later, the proposition ‘This community believes the UK should leave the EU’ achieved a round of applause when 91.87 per cent voted to Remain. It would be interesting to see if the voting malarkey was bona fide: one can’t help but wonder if this is all an elaborate setup, and more or less the same story is spun in every performance. Had reviewers been invited to attend two performances to note any differences, I may have been reassured that each show is well and truly unique. That said, the possibility of two audiences voting the same way can never be entirely discounted.
The audience files in to the sound of buzzing bees, with a video projection to accompany the sound effects. I sat there trying to link it to the show, and concluded that there’s something about teamwork in a beehive, where everyone’s contribution is of ultimate benefit. The actual reason for including bees in the narrative turned out to be simpler and less profound in the end, and some other details in the plot were, to be blunt, too mundane for me. Given that we are told Thurso is the northernmost railway station in the UK mainland, was it strictly necessary to have a video montage telling us what every station is between Glasgow and Thurso? I would have thought stating the journey time and/or distance would have sufficed.
This being a one-man show, a lot of events are described, and while Drummond puts on some good voices of various characters, proceedings would have benefited significantly from a small ensemble to assist with dramatizing events more fully. As it stands, the recounting of previous events, while thorough, is almost too meticulous, as though this were a stage production trying to remain as faithful as possible to a novel on which it is based. Drummond has an engaging nature and a good rapport with the audience. However, it was difficult at times to see the relation of the main storyline to the European Union membership referendum or the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States, except that these events, together with the Scottish independence referendum, were (quite feasibly, really) talked about by the show’s characters because they were topical at the time.
Even whether latecomers should be allowed entry was put to a vote. This particular audience, to my personal disappointment, decided they could come in at a suitable point (63.19 per cent), though the said latecomers got their comeuppance. It’s all suitably entertaining, for sure, but I’m not sure it sparks as much debate as it could.
Following the acclaimed Bullet Catch in The Shed, Rob Drummond returns to the National with a new show about democracy. The Majority charts Rob’s journey as he navigates the Scottish Independence Referendum, Brexit, Trump… and whatever today brings.
Cast: Rob Drummond
Director – David Overend
Designer – Jemima Robinson
Lighting Designer – Michael Harpur
Music & Sound – Scott Twynholm
Video Associate – Mogzi Bromley-Morgans
a new play by Rob Drummond
Booking until 28th August 2017
Running Time: Approx. 90 minutes without an interval