Monday, 26 July 2021

REVIEW: Bigot at the Camden People’s Theatre

I don’t often watch sports on TV but when I do it’s usually on my backside on the sofa with a takeaway. I sit and I think; ‘God I’m exhausted just watching them’. Well, if Bigot was a sport, Hassan Govia and Jess Pentney of Unshaded Arts are world-class athletes. 

There’s a lot to be said about actors with stamina, and the pair didn’t let the ball drop once. Their commitment was unmatched, their passion was palpable, and Govia put in one of the best cry-on-cue shifts I’ve seen in a long-time. Whatever they were selling I was buying, which is why I’m glad they went into theatre and not sales, because otherwise, the good people of Camden would all be broke. The performances were a home run.

Although the feeling of exhaustion watching talented people do what they do best is 50% inspiring, it’s also 50% taxing. The dialogue of Bigot, an absurdist take on online cancel-culture, was a barrage of clipped, censored, back-and-forth sentences that made up an hour-long argument. I appreciate how this bizarre interchange between two users/abusers reflects the stupidity of cancel-culture, but it was a struggle to keep up with. Although the actors were limbered up to take on this verbal tennis match, I was gasping for breath. Down for the count.

A moment of respite came when the cancelled duo convened a focus group with the audience scattered around the black-box theatre. Believe me when I say it is incredibly funny to watch an innocent audience member being forced to hurl abuse at strangers (the actors, just so we’re clear). It was a stroke of comedy genius and is emblematic of the company’s ability to make something entertaining out of not very much at all. They used everything available to them to make their point, including the audience. The participation was a clever take on online anonymity and along with chalk, some post-it-notes, carboard and a projector, the team put together an insightful, engaging commentary on freedom of speech from a perspective that isn’t often heard. It was a hole in one, if you will. 

Unfortunately, much like when I watch sports, I didn’t always know what was going on. I get the general idea and know when something important happens, but otherwise, I’m just watching people run around. The speed of the script, paired with an absurdist twist, meant I knew whilst it was happening that things were passing me by. I still got the overall message, but, where totally absurdist plays make you analyse what you’ve seen to understand them, and naturalistic plays leave it right in front of your face, Bigot got lost somewhere in the middle. It was slightly confusing, but you could roll with the punches. 

Nevertheless, Unshaded Arts came with a message and made sure you heard it. Their attitude to theatre is exactly what theatre needs right now and with some fine-tuning, their absurdist take on this absurd digital culture of ours could be a real knock-out. I would highly recommend keeping an eye on this company; they’re certainly heavy-hitters. [Sports metaphor]. 

Review by Anna Smith 

Rating: ★★★

Seat: Unassigned | Price of Ticket: £12

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