As a prospect it was certainly intriguing, and this production has been much-hyped as a theatrical attempt to address one of the most important issues of modern politics. But as an experience it turns out to be similar (I would imagine) to that of sitting in the House of Lords during a lengthy evening debate, surrounded as I was by sombre expressions and no shortage of dozing elderly patrons.
The structure is straightforward; a Professor of political communication (Simon Poland) delivers a short introduction positing that voting has become an embarrassing act as opposed to an empowering one, and that we live in a world where people are more interested in watching Gordon Brown picking his nose on Youtube than reading up on his policies.
We're then taken through a series of interviews conducted by the aforementioned Professor, acted out by the six-strong company. These testimonies deserve to be heard, but delivered in such an episodic fashion they soon become repetitive and few tell us anything we don't already know.
Apparently elderly people who play golf harbour casually racist opinions. Young Mums feel out of touch with the political establishment and few bother to vote. An immigrant housewife finds the rise of the BNP a “kick in the teeth”. A football coach believes that doing good in the community is more important than voting. Most distrust politicians and find the prospect of choosing between Labour and Tory limiting.
One of the final interviewees is Emma, an 18-year-old in foster care, who suggests that offering cups of tea at polling stations might encourage more people to vote. This is about as close to an answer as Counted? threatens to get.
The acting company make the best of the material they have, though they are hampered by the shoddy acoustics of the chamber. Words, and focus, tend to drift towards the ceiling.
If I sound frustrated it's only because this strikes me as such a wasted opportunity – this is an issue worthy of attention and this should be the perfect blend of company and venue to tackle it. Yet, despite a token (and pointless) poll being taken at the end, there is a notable lack of interactivity between performers and audience which left me feeling distinctly apathetic.