FRINGE REVIEW – Fight Night

*****

By Jen McGregor

Fringe veterans Ontroerend Goed have been bringing highly interactive, deeply unsettling shows to the Fringe for several years now. For loyal fans, Fight Night might feel a little underpowered. It does not make the same deeply personal impact as some of their previous work. However, for those encountering the company for the first time, this is probably a very good show to start with.

A dapper host introduces the audience to five candidates and asks us to vote for one using electronic devices issued on arrival. Thus begins an hour-long deconstruction of voting systems, democracy, popularity and electioneering. We are manipulated, then told how. We are told how, then manipulated.

What’s missing is a sense of something being truly at stake. The candidates want our votes, but why? This is where the show stumbles. The candidates are simultaneously real people and constructed characters, but they lack any motivation beyond winning for the sake of winning. Consequently, when candidates lose and have to leave the stage, their little displays of anger and/or sadness don’t quite ring true.

In a way, this lack of a cause or a goal should create freedom to bend the rules and experiment with just how far this theatrical game can go. What prevents us from abstaining, demanding more options, refusing just to accept our largely passive role? In part it’s the surroundings – a darkened theatre is an environment in which we’re conditioned to sit still, be quiet and do as we’re told – and in part it’s the feeling that there is a procedure, there is a script. It feels as if exploring the limits of the game would be impolite at best and forbidden at worst. There is a means of opposing the system offered, but it’s a bit predictable. If the game felt a little more improvised and responsive, there would be greater opportunities for subversion which would turn this into a piece with considerably more impact. As it stands, Fight Night is an interesting and fairly well-performed show that makes an important but slightly obvious point about PR-based politics.

Fight Night runs at the Traverse until 25 August (not 19) at various times. Running time is one hour and fifteen minutes.

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