Review: ★★★ Standard:Elite, The Ovalhouse

Review: ★★★ Standard:Elite, The Ovalhouse

Thinking about privilege and challenging it is an ongoing struggle. Director Anoushka Bonwick presents Standard: Elite; a politically driven, interactive piece of theatre that sheds light on entitlement, class and the general imbalances of society.

As life is the ultimate game of chance, each audience member determines their fate by the rolling of a dice. If the odds are in their favour, they sit in the Elite section, among the plush chairs and gift boxes. If their luck is unfavourable, they’re sent to Standard seating, a more compact communal affair to which the masses are resigned. Elites hold the responsibility of choosing the direction of the story and Standards are required to aid in the narrative, with the hope that by doing so they can progress to Elite status.

Subverting the traditional fairy tale genre, writer Elliot Hughes challenges the usual gender stereotypes by presenting the male character (a rich boy from Highground) as the ‘damsel in distress’ and the female of the piece (a poor girl from Lowground) as the ‘saviour.’ Furthermore, actors Sophie MacKenzie & Eliot Hughes are cast as the opposite of their genders, a refreshing choice, reflective of the gender-neutral debate currently present in today’s society. As the play progresses, MacKenzie and Hughes merge seamlessly into a variety of storybook characters, feeding off the audience and embracing the opportunity for improvisation. This is facilitated by designer Irene Jade, who opts out of a traditional set to provide an assortment of props that truly allow the imagination to run free.

The aim of Hidden Track Theatre is to empower unheard audiences and therefore it’s clear from the outset what side of the Standard: Elite, they favour. Although they are fair in addressing the fact that having privilege does not mean that an individual is immune to life’s hardships, if awareness is key, surely it’s just as important to recognise the many unearned benefits of the girl from Lowground (white, cis-gendered, has familial support etc).

One of the most powerful elements of the piece is the booming Orwellian voice provided by Joe Brownbridge that is heard whenever conflict is detected; patronisingly reminding the narrators that ‘we don’t want anything to get out of hand.’ In the confines of the play, this statement consistently prevents the progress of the story and in terms of society, limiting the discussion of social mobility keeps privilege alive and protected.

Chloe Hoey 

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