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Review of The Candidate at Theatre Delicatessen

Omar Ibrahim and Matthew Flacks
Omar Ibrahim and Matthew Flacks.
Photo credit The Lab Collective

I felt there was no more fitting way to spend the eve of a General Election than to go and see a two man interactive piece of theatre that centres around a political candidate, which I think you will agree was obviously very well timed.

As I entered the theatre space for the performance of The Lab Collective’s The Candidate I was instructed along with the rest of the audience to stand under a shape in which there were five various ones around the room on the walls, which made me feel rather like I was in the TV game show The Crystal Maze (yes I vaguely remember it). Although a bit cramped I think there seemed an air of intrigue radiating from the audience of what was ahead. The presenter/spin doctor Matt (Matthew Flacks) very enthusiastically told us to keep our phones on, and to text the number on the screen to be able to register so we could vote throughout the production.

We were quickly introduced to the political candidate Omar (Omar Ibrahim), although we were not told which political party he belonged to, and to 5 different versions of himself to choose – voting by text. We were introduced to each version a little too quickly as although each was different in personality, remembering them all was a different matter. Being interactive, any of the five could have been chosen but it was the slightly arrogant, unrelatable Omar that was chosen.

Members of the audience were then encouraged by Flacks to ask questions of the candidate in front of them. This is a clever concept as it requires intense concentration and improvisational skills from Ibrahim who displayed this impressively, talking out of the side of his mouth with a very self important Mid-Atlantic drawl of an elocution lesson gone wrong. From important issues to the downright silly the audience were engaged well and the humour was well timed from Ibrahim whose ‘’background in economics’’ was his selling point.

What seemed rather forced, was the spin doctor (Flacks) and his tirades at the candidate that he was trying to help become more likeable, after negative polls were being generated by the audience. These outbursts (although funny in places) relied too much on shouting and using obscene language for a comedic effect, rather than actual wit, which was a shame as the improvisation from Ibrahim provided a lot of this missing wit throughout his questions. Perhaps Directors Joseph Thorpe and Natalie Scott could have made these interjections a little less manic in the production.

Once the shapes on the wall had been explained as representing areas of policies that the audience had to deem most important (with public services being the most popular), the candidate in front of us seemed to change into a politician who actually seemed to care, but this did border on the clichéd from Ibrahim and resembled a motivational speech rather than a fresh approach.

The Candidate provided some great satire into the mix that was a great parody of the stereotypical self-absorbed out-of-touch politicians from Ibrahim, who gave a very competent performance. This type of interactive show relies on the audience’s views and ideas of politics, which worked very well. I don’t think it needed so much manic anger from the candidate’s spin doctor, but apart from that it was an enjoyable pre-election theatrical experience.

Three and a half gold stars

Review by Francesca Mepham

The Candidate in association with Theatre Delicatessen
Behind closed doors is an opportunity to change the game. Your candidate needs you to participate in a unique polling session, helping to shape his ideals, policy and image. He can be whatever you want him to be, make the promises you need him to make, and carefully adjust how he looks to suit your taste.

Perception is at the forefront of politics, and the digital age leaves no stone unturned in the quest to satisfy our hunger for information – not only as commentary on current affairs, but also as a leisure activity, shaping our perspective, exposing us to selective aspects of politics and mutating public figures into mass entertainment. The Candidate explores the complex relationship between the public and its prospective leaders. Delving into the draw to power, and the new, malleable means by which to grasp it, The Candidate traces the journey of a prospective leader as a pawn in his own game using the public as co-conspirators; but at its core is the key question – who is playing whom?

The Lab Collective create performance to engage, challenge and thrill our audiences. The work they make is intended to heighten the audience’s experience by breaking the barrier between the performer and spectator, whether this be an intimate one on one experience, or a larger scale performance. Much of their work is socially and politically engaged and asks questions about issues which impact us all, giving a voice to unheard stories – told not only by the performers – but by the audience themselves.

Performance Dates April 29th 2015 – May 16th 2015
Wednesday to Saturday, 7.15pm and 8.30pm
Running Time 45/50 mins
Theatre Delicatessen, 119 Farringdon Road, London EC1R 3DA
Ticket Price £12/£10
Box Office Brownpapertickets (thecandidate.brownpapertickets.com)
http://thelabcollective.co.uk
Twitter (twitter.com/labcollective)

Cast Omar Ibrahim and Matthew Flacks
Directors Joseph Thorpe and Natalie Scott
Creative Practitioner Neil Connolly
Assistant Director Elizabeth Crockett

Thursday 7th May 2015

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