First things first: if you dread audience participation, Incoming/Exodus is not for you. That said, it is possible to interact as much or as little as one wishes, though it is difficult to be completely passive in an environment and atmosphere that lends itself well to the open exchange of opinions. Before the play starts, members of the audience are allocated a district, which sounds like something out of The Hunger Games, but there we have it. One either belongs to North, South, East or West Camden, which did leave open the question of who ‘lives’ in Central Camden, one of many imponderables to think about.
Councillors are duly elected and move forward to sit on stage. For reasons not entirely explained, aside from a desire by someone in central government to delegate certain decisions to a local level, two out of five candidates who wish to immigrate to Camden must be selected at this council meeting. Each has their own valid reasons for wanting to move from their current place of residence, and the selection process (at the performance I attended) turns into a discussion about how exactly the council is supposed to say, ‘Yes, come in’ to certain people, thus sticking the proverbial middle finger up at others.
Civil servants (they weren’t called ‘civil servants’ as such, but hey, let’s not give everything away) Mark (Matthew Flacks) and Viola (Amelia Vernede) begin with an enthusiastic preamble, setting down the parameters and pontificating about how wonderful Camden is with the enthusiasm of gameshow hosts, garnering opinions from the audience as to what they thought the benefits of living ‘here’ are.
In the discussion proper, this council had something of a mischievous and rebellious streak about it – the intention was for non-councillors to raise points of order by getting up and going to a central microphone, though this was mostly ignored, which made for a debate that was more fluid than it might have been had we stuck obligingly to the rules set down by government for these debates.
Every production is different to a certain degree every night – an understudy might be on, for instance, and the audience is different, and so are their reactions to what they see. Having heard what happened at previous performances of Incoming/Exodus (if ‘performances’ is the right word), it’s rare to come across a production where the course of events varies as considerably as this one does. The participants really are empowered to make decisions that have a knock-on effect on how the show ends. For the record, our own debate resulted in a motion being tabled to reject altogether the stipulation of having to select two out of five: there’s room in ‘our Camden’ for them all, or so it was asserted.
I won’t ruin it by revealing the outcome, suffice to say I was more than satisfied with our display of boldness and confidence. This is highly thought-provoking stuff, and while I naturally didn’t agree with every point of view that was made, it was simply glorious being part of a reasoned discussion that never descended into trading insults and obtuse remarks. This is more than can be said for Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons. A memorable, intense and invigorating experience.
Review by Chris Omaweng
A new society is coming; plagued by the suspicion of strangers, a system has evolved to meet the demands of an angry and fearful population. Incoming/Exodus is an interactive, immersive experience which challenges attitudes towards immigration, with your voice centre stage.
You have been called upon to undertake a new form of civic duty, becoming immigration officers on behalf of a crumbling government. Working collaboratively with your fellow citizens, you must complete your assignment to make or break the new order.
In a world where humans have been turned into numbers, and the numbers are warped by those in power – will you break the system?
In a post-Brexit, post-UK, post-London world, Incoming/Exodus invites the audience to consider and re-imagine the fundamental building blocks of our society. Using interactive performance and elements of gameplay we ask our audience to participate in and question the decision-making process of those in power, whilst daring to imagine a different future.
Performed by Matthew Flacks and Amelia Vernede
Directed by Joseph Thorpe and Natalie Scott
Supported by CPT and Barbican Open Labs.
Tue 17 – Sat 21 Oct at 9pm