Finally, our much delayed Youth Club Experience: A Slice of the 80s was presented at Brighton Youth Centre as part of the Brighton Fringe. The audience were attending as if they were coming to the youth club. They were encouraged to dress the part and they took part in activities before coming together to be awarded prizes and do a silly dance. Overseeing this were the actors, who were members of ‘Ofyouth’, dedicated to ensuring the activities were being carried out in an authentic fashion (which involved tape measures, stopwatches and clipboards)
Our Uncorked shows are immersive, meaning that the ‘audience’ are, in fact, participants. The words ‘audience participation’ alarms people sometimes, they imagine it as being like a comedy night, where the comedian will target them sitting quietly in the audience to make a joke at their expense. In our shows, there is usually a social issue being explored, such as whether a library should charge hire fees, or which service an overstretched hospital should drop. The ‘audience’ are concerned local citizens, who engage in debate with the ‘characters’ (the actors who play a key role within the drama), which happens simultaneously all round the performance space, as if chatting at a party. This is normally followed by a debate or meeting, where the audience becomes a more traditional one, as they sit and watch, but they are still invited to contribute. At no point is anyone forced to engage, or have others watching them as they are ‘performing’. I tell people it’s like a ‘Murder Mystery’ event, to give them a frame of reference, but it isn’t really. It’s much more creative and people normally throw themselves into it with gusto and have a great time.
Even though we explain it is fiction and the action ends with the ‘actors’ bowing, we still have people thinking the planned scenarios are real and asking if they should contact the council/press about them. Sometimes authenticity means we skate perilously close to the wind.
So it was for this show. As we all know, health and safety has changed since the 80s. Gone is smoking in public places/on transport, dangerous play equipment, everyone all piled into a car because there were no seatbelts, children walking anywhere on their own until they reach age 10 or being able to buy alcohol for their parents. These are good things, I’m not denying! The downside might be a reduced ability in light-heartedness. Within the description of the show was contained the line: ‘You will not be checked for illegal substances and unauthorised weapons at the door (unless you want to be....)’. Because in the 80s, no-one would have thought of such a thing. And the bit in parenthesis was our slightly risqué remark.
When I arrived at the venue on the first night, Mike (CEO of BYC) informed me he’d been called by the police that day. Someone had made a complaint about this line in the show description and the fear was that it would actively encourage people to rock up to a fringe show in a youth club wearing silly costumes with their pockets stuffed full of things they shouldn’t have. Mike, having first assumed this was a wind-up, swiftly realised it wasn’t put them straight on the nature of the show and to smooth things over, the line was removed from the Fringe listing. It was a shame this hadn’t happened earlier, as we could have got press coverage out of it and been a sellout!
Below is the review from Sophie, volunteer for Livestock…
This 80s immersive show was radical. The characters of the inspectors were very comical and really added to the experience of a youth club centre in the 80s. The activities were hella creative and the splitting of teams was reminiscent of being young. It was an extremely fun evening filled with exercises, sugar highs, and realisation of how shockingly bad our 80s knowledge was in the quiz. The evening was all beautifully finished off with a stellar dance off with creative 80s dancing moves performed by the youth club guests. Overall it was a bodacious youth club experience. The Star Wars pen and love hearts were also dope. (Can you spot the five 80s words?)
I've been reading one of Alan Bennett's diaries (very slowly. Not because I don't enjoy it, but because it's in the bathroom, reserved for my post-shower sit in towel to dry off). It made me realise I would LOVE my own 'What I've been up to this week!' type column in a paper/magazine. So would many thousands of others, I'd imagine. So, I've created my own additional section here. Less ranty, reflectiony or reviewy than the other bits.