What is worse – Everything sticky or everything slippy?
Peculiar and nonsensical questions like these fuel Dirty Rascals Theatre Company's latest piece, 'I Want You To Admire Me (But You Shouldn't)'. Founded in 2016 and pioneered to create theatre which is genre-defying, radical, honest yet disruptive - VAULT Festival 2019 clearly fits that vision.
It's a wacky game show with three contestants 'randomly' selected from the audience. What's the prize you ask? Nothing much, only the admiration of the whole audience. I know, budget cuts.
Think a game of 'Higher or Lower', as the audience too are provided with red and green cards to cast their votes on which answers they consider to be 'Better' or 'Worse'. We watch three participants, Howard, Emily and Hannah battle it out to see who will win 'Most Admirable Person'. Their obnoxious host, Tom Macqueen is as hyperactive as you'd expect him to be... but with a subtle dark side, which of course makes our contestants shudder in their shoes. He reminded me of a scary headteacher I had – a bit like Jack Frost yet claiming to be approachable and care about how your cat got run over that morning which is why you forgot your homework, you know the ones I mean... It's not long before he becomes more sadistic. Likewise, the questions become more morally questionable and the format becomes a bit chaotic to watch. At times you really are kept in anticipation of what will happen next and the not knowing makes it even more watchable. For a piece designed to be for the later, rowdier crowds (in my case Valentines Day crowds), the hilarity was definitively there and the jokes were sharp and kept us on edge.
The darker tones of the piece soon became apparent, with the contestants being obsessed with the deadly sin of adoration. Our contestants make themselves up as porcelain dolls, tear off their clothes, sing hymns and glue bird feathers to their face. Anything for our attention. In the social media age, I found this piece to be quite potent; it's a bit ridiculous seeing the lengths our cast go to in order to obtain our love. I'm sure we've all seen people do ridiculous things in order to get a few likes, favourites and power. The Kardashian brand springs to mind quicker than I can get out of bed on a Monday morning.
Overall, it's a multi-layered, clever piece about what we as society are completely breaking people down, for them to think they might get something out of it. I want to see more theatre like this from Dirty Rascals, as it was a show I 'admired'. The only thing I didn't admire was the choice to choose audience members who were clearly actors. I wanted a bit more of a surprise element, but instead sections of dialogue felt a little too rehearsed for it to feel 100% authentic throughout the whole piece.
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