Words by: Emily Schofield-Cox
I think that as a social collective we can all unanimously agree that our single greatest fear is forced audience participation. The idea of having to either stand up in front of an audience or be called upon in our seat while we have a mouthful of chips and were thinking about whether or not we fed the cat is a living nightmare.
Grr Nights’ More or Less Better is 45 straight minutes of that.
I went into the show at the Blue Room Theatre in the centre of Northbridge’s cultural heart with no prior knowledge of the show, expecting to watch some variety of a one-man show amongst a larger audience. Instead, I was one of six audience members, flanked by a man in a onesie on a laptop controlling the music (a mix of Justin Bieber’s reimagining of Christmas carols and the Titanic soundtrack), in a tiny hut, or ‘yurt,’ in the middle of a small room.
We were sat down in a tiny semi-circle, knees awkwardly banging against strangers’, and put into green and red paper hats for no apparent reason. In such a small room, the presenter, whose name varied between Potbelly and David, had to ask the audience a couple of times to close their eyes to “preserve the magic of theatre”.
The whole experience was very strange and, throughout its entirety, extremely awkward. We were made to have an impromptu spelling bee, with three people calling out words for the other three to spell. The words were almost always spelled very wrongly, and Potbelly/David kept forgetting that the word had ended and making them continue piling on extra letters. He also closely inspected our ‘nooks’- the space between our chin and shoulder – to the side of our neck, which was a very uncomfortable experience, particularly when he used his own nook to do so.
The jam-packed 45 minute show also included us burning origami penises and throwing them on the ground in flames (the small ones for the pricks in our lives, the larger ones for the big dicks in our lives, and the outlines for the very patriarchy itself), and lighting sparklers for a quick moment of quiet reflection. Although this was all quite entertaining, the audience of six – who had all been forced to become very close, very quickly – were exchanging furtive glances as we silently worked out which exit to run for when the highly flammable yurt, carpet and wooden floor combination inevitably caught alight.
Although the storyline was really hard to follow, the experience as a whole was a memorable and enjoyable one. Potbelly/David had moments of truly great improvisation, including dramatic acrostic poems using audience members’ names and a giant storybook about Jesus living in bums that brightened everyone’s moods. There was a long and awkward section where he tried to make audience members admit to loving him as he ate a raw onion as if it were an apple, and touched them. But all in all, the actor’s genuine and clear excitement to be there and his attempts to include everyone in that feeling was really lovely and brought the show up to a higher standard. The ending is the sweetest moment, wherein Potbelly/David sheds his persona and genuinely tells us how he, and by extension us, should strive to have more meaningful conversations, less judgement of ourselves and others and better lives consequently.
If you are someone who wants to enjoy the weirder side of Fringe and is looking to explore outside of their comfort zone, this is a really good show to go with – but bring a friend, because no one will believe you otherwise.