I’d never stepped foot in or even heard of the New Diorama Theatre in Camden. It’s a friendly little space where the tickets are laminated and reusable, the seats are unreserved and everyone seems to know each other. The New Diorama is committed to showcasing new work and this play was no exception.
I’d been asked by Fictive Theatre to review their new show ‘Lottery’. Fictive are an emerging grad company, and one of the many the New Diorama is helping to showcase. ‘Lottery’ (written and directed by Simon Paris) tells the story of what could happen if the Prime Minister was chosen from a random lottery of people – no experience necessary.
Despite the promise, in my mind, of political scandal and a dystopian future (a la ‘The Hunger Games’), the play instead was one of heightened awkwardness and contemporary jokes. I did enjoy the ordinary opening of the play – a pair making awkward conversation over coffee – but I kept waiting for a punch and the main story line to kick in. Instead, it was filtered in very slowly among puns and awkward silences. I think what the play could have benefited from was a more dynamic opening such as a political announcement (possibly in video form) which explains how the government is formed in this world. I think by making a much larger thing of this over arcing point, the plot twist at the end (that it is indeed a fix and not a fair lottery) would have had much more impact if it had been constantly drummed into us that it was random.
Although I yearned for a more coherent plot and emphasis on the politics (there were too many awkward jokes for my liking), I cannot fault how funny the actors were. Rhys Tees, as the PM’s assistant, was lapped up by the audiences with his witty one-liners, hot pink (I loved the ‘Mean Girls’ reference) suit and suggestive lollipop-licking. His turn from funny assistant to power-hungry was great to watch, I just wish it would have been amped up that little bit more. I found Elliot Bornemann, as the PM’s friend, was charming and easy to watch. He was instantly likable and his political rants and suggestions for the PM were a great example of the people not in power knowing more than those in it. He was a good symbol for the “everyman”.
With the new PM being female (Ava Pickett), there were some obvious connotations. Whether to mask a possibly long costume change I do not know, but the introduction of a coat and heeled shoes correlating to her public approval rating seemed trivial and not needed. However, the change in Pickett’s clothing did spark the idea that she is gradually becoming indoctrinated with the ideas of the “dicks in power” (as Bornemann says). There was a spark of friendship/relationship between Pickett and Anton which could have been further explored, and I feel their friendship should have been much stronger, rather than just having met whilst on jury service. Pickett’s performance completely captured how clueless anyone would be in such a job as PM, and her awkward characterisation was endearing, but repetitive.
Set designer, Magda Iwanska, had chosen to keep it minimalist, with just a table and chairs and bundles of shredded paper everywhere. When I say everywhere I mean everywhere. It covered the floor, formed a half-backdrop, came shooting out an opening umbrella, and even was distributed by the actors taking it out of their pockets. This was an interesting concept and I’m still trying to wrap my head around what it meant – was it to represent the tombola-like process of picking a PM? Was it shredded applications? It was a great concept left to interpretation.
Overall, the show had its funny moments and clever elements. My main criticism is that I wish there had been a more coherent plot line focusing more upon the struggle between this system and the people, rather than just a comic hour-and-a-half of too-much gurning, list-making, and puns (though I do love a good pun). It was definitely an interesting concept, but one that needs to be tightened and worked on further. If it is to be performed again, I would love to see it and see what changes are made.
You can find Fictive Theatre on Twitter @fictivetheatre
*I was lucky enough to be given a complimentary ticket to this show. However, all thoughts and opinions are my own*