Review - The Majority at the National Theatre
Does your vote count? Does it really make a difference? It will in Rob Drummond’s new play, The Majority. As you take your seats at the Dorfman, you’re handed a voting pad, a tool which will allow you to directly influence how the evening goes down, and learn a little more about yourself in the process.
It starts out a bit like a theatre version of Test the Nation. Our first choices are light-hearted; we're deciding whether latecomers will be allowed into the evening's performance, or if the show should go ahead at all. Each decision has a simple yes or no answer, and the percentages of who chose which are displayed on screens around the room. This must be what the Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? audience feel like.
After introductions, Drummond begins to tell his story. Following last year’s Indy Ref in Scotland, the playwright met Eric: an eccentric (to say the least) but intriguing leftie he bumped into in Glasgow. Following months of messages and texts, they meet in a Northern Scotland village, and Drummond finds himself making decisions he never thought he would, from etching the word 'Nazi' into a councillor's driveway, to punching a right-wing protester in the face, winding up in a police cell along the way.
As he paces around the floor telling his story, we're making other decisions. Many of these don't actually affect the course of the play, but test our utilitarian limits. There are variations of the classic train dilemma: a train cart is speeding towards five railway workers with no time to warn them, but you could pull a lever and change the train’s course so it would only hit one worker, what do you do? Drummond shakes up the different elements of this dilemma at various points of the story, and it really does make you question your morals, why you think what you think, and it’s an insight into what a group of people (well, a National Theatre audience) believe is right or wrong.
As is the nature of this story, Drummond takes you to right-wing rallies in Aberdeen, and replaces the railway workers with neo-Nazis and children. Unfortunately, given the events in Charlottesville over the weekend, it feels painfully relevant.
Drummond is a natural storyteller. He doesn't need props or cast mates to draw you into his world. The show is full of insightful moments, with a splattering of humour, but as his face is beamed on a beehive structure suspended above the stage (very Big Brother), he glares down the camera, making you feel that your decision really does matter.
There are one or two odd moments to change the pace up. Towards the beginning, the latecomers are forced to wonder onto the stage and meet Drummond before taking their seats, which takes rather a long time and seems to leave the playwright flapping around. But the majority of the 90-minute show is well-paced and enticing.
The play ends with Drummond encouraging a debate, and as we leave the theatre, he’s already in the Dorfman foyer, encouraging a response to his piece. Even if you can’t stay to chat, this is a show that will get you talking.
The Majority runs at the Dorfman Theatre at the National Theatre until 28th August.
Photo by Ellie Kurtz