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The Situation Room

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Shoreditch Town Hall

Baseball cap or Fur hat? Whisky or Vodka? Ribena or Elderflower cordial? After answering a series of seemingly unrelated questions each member of the audience is given either a red or blue poker chip and assigned to a team: team America or team Russia.

And so begins the game-playing at the centre of this innovative piece in which audience and actors become part of a cold-war stand-off. Both teams must make decisions about the escalating situation in the revolutionary state of Al-Khadra; do they want to assist the rebels or quash them? Strike pre-emptively or negotiate a ceasefire?

What becomes increasingly evident is that whatever the decision each team face, neither choice seems like the 'right' one to make, and yet the pressure mounts and a course of action must be taken. With all credit to the cast and production team the 'situation' is presented with clarity and, whether the audience are war-mongers or pacifists, movement between each phase of the performance is seamless.

In addition to the game-playing elements there are monologues from both actors and some effective use of mime. In one moment the American representative, Stokely, and his Russian counterpart, Budka, both mime their shaving rituals in front of bathroom mirrors, and become mirror images of one another.

Nothing illustrates clearer the similarity between these two men and their countries' method of dealing with Al-Khadra: their ideologies may be startlingly different but their 'aid' to this revolutionary state is clearly given out of self-interest and for exploitative purposes.

If you are unsure about attending an interactive piece of theatre I would encourage you to try The Situation Room. The decision making process is thought-provoking as opposed to nerve-racking, and no one is unduly placed 'under the spotlight'. And both actors, Simon Carroll-Jones and Robert Macpherson, are such genial characters - both in and out of role - that you feel safe in their hands. In all, this is a well-crafted piece of devised theatre that challenges its audience as much as it entertains them.

- Charlotte Pegram


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