How important is a writer to a play? What is a performance without a writer or director?
The company Say It Again, Sorry specialise in such questions. Their approach is to take the basics of theatre and show the audience the back end. Their previous production of Ernest ended with the whole audience on stage – like an immersive version of The Play That Goes Wrong.
This approach continues into Not Our Play. The script has been crowdsourced online and is not seen by the actors until they come to perform it. It has been lightly formatted for readability but not edited.
As such there are some obvious moments of fun from the actors. The first time someone corpses, the first time someone swears. The audience find the fun that is usually a part of the rehearsal process.
Watching the actors improvise the script is fun for the hour the show lasts (and they will be different sets of actors each time to ensure that spontaneity). However the overall effect is somewhat ephemeral. While this work enjoys playing with conventions it largely does so in the shallows. It is a light, frothy and enjoyable experience.
This is an interesting experiment with crowdsourcing, but as much as anything else it shows its limitations. There isn’t a story to the play – just a series of vignettes often designed as much to challenge the actors as to entertain the audience. It also slightly shows up the limits of this kind of improvisation for the audience in the room. While we were invited to contribute to the play on entry – our additions didn’t come until the end of the experience. We actually had less input in the room that we would during a standard improvisation exercise.
As a writer, I am quite happy to have the worth of my chosen profession reinforced. But equally, as an audience member I was happy to be entertained. This was a fun experience for a night out. But I don’t think its challenges do much more than this.