For King & Country
Reviewed – 26th April 2018
“a truly immersive show – the role the public plays means that no two performances are ever going to be the same”
A soldier in a second world war uniform is the only indication that something unusual is going on behind an unsuspecting doorway in South East London. He welcomes you into an intimate flag filled bar transporting you instantly back to the 1940s. Cast members circulate in period costume whilst Douglas Remington-Hobbs introduces himself and gives you a brief back story as to your purpose for the evening.
It’s December 1940, but not as we know it, Lord Halifax is Prime Minister, Edward VIII is on the throne, Nazi troops have landed in Britain and are rapidly advancing through the South East of England. Britain is in crisis and an emergency session has recalled both houses to Parliament. A small number of backbench MPs and their families are whisked away to a secret London location. As a member of the audience you assume the identity of one of these designated survivors. Almost immediately disaster strikes in London and soon you are electing a new Prime Minister and cabinet to take the lead and take control of the situation.
Peter Dewhurst is excellent in his role of Douglas Remington-Hobbs. He controls proceedings and is responsible for steering the audience through the tough decisions they have to make. He is quick witted and his ability to draw out suggestions and shoot down the crazy responses is brilliant. This is a truly immersive show – the role the public plays means that no two performances are ever going to be the same. The actors are talented and experts in improvisation. They feed trickles of information and direct you towards a solution – sometimes facing the difficulty of dealing with a particularly headstrong and passionate individual. The evening progresses with a mixture of healthy debates in a makeshift parliament interspaced with the audience being sent off to carry out a number of different tasks.
Notable performances also came from Christopher Styles and Edward Andrews playing Major Timothy Smythe and Squadron Leader James Muir. The set (Owen Kingston and Christopher Styles) is fantastic with the attention to detail adding to the atmosphere. The space is used to maximum effect and easily negotiated as you move through the different scenes. Whilst those with “elected” roles are given specific direction “unelected” audience members are left to wander freely as each scenario unfolds. Sometimes this allowed some to become a little bit lost with what was going on. I felt that it would have had a better flow if the “unelected” had been split into groups and given specific tasks.
Overall For King and Country is a clever, fun evening out – original and extremely engaging. A knowledge of historic events and participation is not essential but would add to your enjoyment enormously. Don’t worry if you are not “elected” to a lead role there are still plenty of opportunities for immersion.
Reviewed by Angela East
Photography by Owen Kingston
For King & Country
COLAB Factory until 10th June
Previously at this venue