1979: a game-changing year in British politics, and not too dissimilar from events today. The Labour government were in jeopardy, after The Winter of Discontent, so Margaret Thatcher called for a vote of no confidence. The result? A Conservative win and Thatcher as PM: but what if you were able to change all that? That is the premise of Parabolic Theatre’s new immersive theatre piece, where alongside the actors; you get to try to rewrite history!
Parabolic Theatre execute the immersive aspect exceptionally. As soon as the audience enter the building, you’re taken right into 1979 with the set and then given your own government pass. Leader and co-writer, Tom Black, does an excellent job at setting up how everything will work: the plan is to attempt to keep a hold of the Labour government by thwarting the Conservatives vote of no confidence. There is a treasury department- lead by stand out performer of the night Zoe Flint, whose comedic spin on economist Karen is hilarious; a civil unrest department – to monitor areas where strikes and violence may occur; and the political department – to help sway MPs to vote to keep in labour. Every action the audience take has a knock on effect on another department, for example in order to keep a union leader happy, you may have to increase their workers’ salaries which would increase inflation. Every aspect of the set up is superbly done, as there are only prompts to help steer towards the end goal, and the rest is entirely down to audience actions.
This particular night, the audience: sold islands under our control in order to decrease inflation, flirted with Tory MPs to not vote, and flew Tony Benn from New York in a concorde then helicoptered him to Westminster, stopped civil unrest in towns that were heavily affected by coal and steel strikes and made deals with union leaders to prevent further unrest. All of which resulted in Labour defeating the Conservatives and remaining in government – but any night could be different.
The attention to detail from the Parabolic team is excellent, down to the Ceefax and the old television, custard creams, the BBC broadcast and the fax machine. The fact that the bar amends their prices depending on inflation, and that when you pick up the phone there is actually someone on the end of it really adds flair to the premise.
The only qualm is your night can so heavily be affected by your fellow audience members, and at times your level of political knowledge of the time – could mean things could get slightly overwhelming, but the actors are always on hand to help bring you back into the mix.
Overall, Parabolic have put together something quite extraordinary that is recommendable for any politics swots out there as a different night out, whilst remaining prompting after thoughts about the current state of UK politics.