19 July 2010 WOS Rating: Job interviews are occasionally preceded by psychometric tests. Concealed within a seemingly endless list of questions are a couple which, when answered, reveal the hidden motivations of the candidate. Domini Public, the new production from The Gate Theatre Notting Hill, takes the same approach – subjecting the audience to a series of questions and tests that make us challenge assumptions and consider the position of others. Although conceived by Catalan Theatre-maker Roger Bernat as an open-air promenade event the show actually took place on the vast stage of the Lyric Theatre due to inclement weather. Actually this worked rather well as looking out at the vast expanse of the theatre inevitably provokes a sense of awe. The stage contains signs towards which we are directed but is otherwise bare and instructions are conveyed to us by way of headphones. Initially we hear excerpts from Mozart’s Magic Flute and, as the evening progresses, are given information about the motivations of the composer and asked whether the fact that it was written to promote Freemasonry or secure funds for the starving Mozart alters our perception of the music. Later we are asked a series of questions about art – should it be free? Well, if so, who would have paid poor old Mozart? We are quizzed about our motives for attending the theatre – entertainment, social, intellectual and so on. This is so effective that, we instinctively flinch when asked if we go to the theatre in search of a slap in the face. Although the show challenges us intellectually it is less successful in securing emotional involvement. A more sinister atmosphere develops as we are divided into groups and assigned roles – prisoners, guards and Red Cross workers. We take part in various scenarios in accordance with instructions along the lines of Simon Says. Although the scenes are deeply disturbing it is hard to commit fully to the playacting and the participants do occasionally give way to giggles. It is difficult to assess how this could have been avoided. The show is not intended for the stage and so the use of lighting to create a more oppressive atmosphere really is not an option. Perhaps a more strenuous commitment might help – a gentle amble across the stage does not really put you in the position of a desperate prisoner on the run. In an excellent use of the theatre the ending puts the audience in the position of looking down from the heavens on the people participating in Domini Public. This imaginative conclusion is typical of a show that is thought provoking and very entertaining. - Dave Cunningham (Reviewed at The Lowry, Salford) Related Content Back to Northwest Homepage
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