- Gareth K Vile
- 15 August 2017
It's time for celebrity culture to crush four souls
Losers has a strong premise: the rise of celebrity culture has created a generation of people who are more interested in fame than ability or integrity, and will do anything to be on television. Four characters present themselves to an audience, begging to be exposed, competing to be the one who is chosen by a reality show producer, and rapidly discard their dignity simply to stand out.
Audience members have handsets, and vote for their favourite in a series of rounds: the loser in each round is forced to perform a humiliating act. While these acts become more extreme – pet food is guzzled, phones are smashed and, finally, bodies are whipped – the play never develops the motivations of the characters. Dysfunctional childhoods and a desperate need for approval are suggested, but serialised structure, and some bickering between the characters, prevents any sympathy or understanding.
That is partially the point, using the late-night party atmosphere as a comment on the spiritual emptiness of the quest for fame. Yet it is theatrically unsatisfying, relying more on the shock of the penalties than asking questions about how this horror has happened. All of the Losers are engaging performers, and play up the vacuity of the wannabe, but the sharpness of the satire never quite hurts enough.
Underbelly, until 27 Aug, 11.20pm, £10 (£9)