wed 29/06/2022

Unchain Me, Brighton Festival review - Dostoevsky-inspired theatre through the streets of Brighton | reviews, news & interviews

Unchain Me, Brighton Festival review - Dostoevsky-inspired theatre through the streets of Brighton

Unchain Me, Brighton Festival review - Dostoevsky-inspired theatre through the streets of Brighton

Democracy, justice and personal agendas create chaos and fun with dystopian overtones

dreamthinkspeak's promenade performance for the Brighton Festival

To take to the streets in Brighton in pursuit of a superior political ideology isn't unusual. What is unusual is that some of the young folk currently lurking about the Brighton Museum are part of dreamthinkspeak, an immersive theatre company taking part in this year's Brighton Festival.

Before the evening begins, us "recruits" are introduced via a "secure platform" online, to an exciting sounding rebel movement's dream of freedom from their dystopian state. In small groups we arrive in secret locations, before being given an ipad and bemusedly squirreling around the dark museum and its outbuildings, trying to grab a hold of the narrative.

Our group leader fills us in on the backstory - the town is dominated by The Governess, the divide between rich and poor is at breaking point and the elusive Lucas is leading the opposition. There are groups of other shadowy uprisers following actors around the museum grounds, through the lanes and into a gin palace, before ending up at a grand social event.

The first half of promenade performance is full of the joys of whispering “Ooo, do you think he is part of the show? Or just a Brightonian?" with frenetic larking about and a fairly fun sense of bewilderment, alongside deep sympathy for the actors trying to control their groups as if herding cats.

Things come into their own at the Governess's soiree, where the uprising takes a dark turn and we are left wondering whether the ideology behind the rebel group is being driven by justice and desire for democracy, or a more sinister personal agenda.

This immersive experience has elements of chaos and confusion, fun and excitement. If lacking in smooth running and convincing detail, Unchain Me cleverly uncovers an element of our current political state in that the audience becomes the voiceless majority stuck between right wing profiteers and anarchic terrorists of the uprising. It is deeply uncomfortable to have highlighted the sense of powerlessness so painfully obvious in the moments where actors ask the audience “Will you speak up?" and we stay silent. The paralysis of realisation that we might not know where we stand with no good option to hold onto is well highlighted and deeply thought provoking.

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