Brighton Fringe 2009
Venue: Brighthelm Centre
Festival: Brighton Fringe
The world of politics and The X factor collide as we the audience decide on the fate of the nation.
It was only a matter of time before theatre took our nation’s obsession with reality talent shows to the next level. In Puddle Productions’ ‘Election Idol’ the competition is for the premiership. It is general election day and only 17,000 votes have been cast. Fearing for the legibility of leadership, Gordon Brown, under the advisory of Peter Mandelson of course, decides to create a new game show, ‘Election Idol’. Fronted by celebrities each political party would gain votes through their chosen celebrity’s performance. Unfortunately for Brown and co. the contestants prove so popular that the Queen demands the resignations of all in government and for the votes on the game show to decide who would be our next Prime Minister. It would be left for us the audience to text in our favourite for the post – cue improvised final speech and winners song.
Luke Sheppard, director of 2008 Edinburgh hit ‘Jet Set Go’ once again shows assured direction. His choreography is simple yet effective and he rarely lets slip an energetic and lively pace. Performances throughout are good. Special mention must go to Lisa Kerr who’s wild Kelly Osborne (daughter of Sharon) showed a depth of character that was both moving and amusing. Having said that a few of the numbers lacked a slickness and togetherness that should be expected on the last night. The production design by Mike Lees was extremely effective as a typical X Factor style staging. Silver lining around the walls and glitzy lighting gave it the cheesy factor that these shows tend to excel in.
Unfortunately the script was obviously still in development. Attempting to challenge us on the state of our society, ‘Election Idol’ brings to light the ridiculous nature of celebrity. Here is a world where all confidence is lost in the government and all hope lies in the spotlight. But for very real issues we need very real characters and by simply mimicking celebrities who we see plastered all over the papers, ‘Election Idol’ fails to really make us care.
Where it does succeed is in creating questions. Why do we vote in these competitions? What attracts us? Why do we vote for a Prime Minister or President? What makes us cross that box? In ‘Election Idol’ the boundaries are blurred. Are we voting for the actor, the celebrity or the person underneath? Does the fact that they are running for government change anything? Surely what touches most deeply is realness, truthfulness and a lack of façade and spin. Unfortunately ‘Election Idol’ simply doesn’t give us this.
As a trail of pop numbers it works extremely well but as a more ambitious piece there is much work to be done in establishing a world in which we actually believe. What we are left with is another quick fix of entertainment and nothing that really stays with us. In a World that craves and demands the easy life, package deals and bite-size highs, surely theatre has a responsibility and an ability to give us something a bit more. Entertaining, yes. Enduring, no.