Audience (3 stars)

This article is from 2011


Ontroerend Goed slip out of the major league with cynical show

Audience opens with an informal talk from cast member Maria, about what it means to be in an audience. You’re not really supposed to talk; you need to clap at the end. We chuckle appreciatively. The joke is that of course we know this. We’re not just theatre-goers; we’re here to see one of the most notorious, manipulative experimental companies on the Fringe. We’re connoisseurs.

The well-publicised conceit we’ve turned up for is that the audience are the star of this show. There’s a camera turned on us; we sit staring at our own faces as the company pull us to pieces.

What seems apparent is that Ontroerend Goed have, to some extent, lost respect for their audience. They are famous on the Fringe now. We keep hurling those high star ratings at them; people are now queuing up in droves to be shocked out of their comfort zones. Is Audience, at some level, an experiment in how much we’ll take before we turn on them? After an appalling act of sexual bullying, which, theatrical device or not, seriously humiliated a woman who had no expectation it was coming, the performers sit amongst us and argue the rights and wrongs of it. Maria contests that we’re all cultured, privileged people; that it is no hardship for us to take an hour’s public humiliation, and perhaps this sentiment does drive the work. She’s detached, though; there’s no real weight behind her words. Somewhere along the way, Ontroerend Goed have lost the sense of curiosity about the live experience that made their early shows so fascinating. They come off as cynical hipsters now, aloof children pulling the wings off flies because they can. Yes, Audience will move and provoke you, but the final montage of crowds at the Nuremberg rallies and on protest marches feels like little more than a sop to meaningfulness.

Oh, and if you’re wearing a skirt, don’t sit in the front row.

St George’s West, 225 7001, until 28 Aug (not 24), 10.55pm, £10–£12 (£8–£10).

'Audience' Trailer by Ontroerend Goed at the Drum Theatre, Plymouth.

Audience – Ontroerend Goed

  • 3 stars

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