Colab Factory – until 10th June
Review by Heather Chalkley
What an experience! It began on arrival with a soldier outside the entrance, on guard and waiting to let you in. The bar is dressed for wartime, snug with lots of draped flags. You are greeted with 1940’s music and hosts in role, from the get go. Each audience member is handed ID papers.
Before you go down to the war room, an MP briefs you in that jovial, stiff upper lip way only the gentrified English can. We, the audience, are the designated survivors and are being taken to safety to a secret bunker just south of the Thames.
The attention to the historical context was exceptional. You are guided through a series of decisions as an emergency war time government, including electing a prime minister and cabinet. I am pleased to say the group of about 24 people all got total into it, taking on roles and playing their parts. Lots of humour was injected. However, the actors stayed true to the serious nature of the situation, delivering news and updates that swung the participants from one scene to the next. It was a truly immersive experience.
Talking afterwards with the director Owen Kingston, he explained that he and his colleague are both historians and have an array of different plots that they can use and are upstairs responding to actions the war cabinet take, adding a good handful of drama with it, phoning through results and updates of the battles happening almost over head. There are a few twists in the tale that I cannot divulge for fear of spoiling the experience for future audiences.
Go back to ancient Greeks and you will see that theatre was used as a way of debating and involving everyone in important decisions. Owen and his team have taken this method and used it to immerse you in a historical piece, evoking real reactions true to the times. It was not hard to identify the relevance to what is happening today, triggering debate about current social issues in an historical context. You are willingly pushed out of your comfort zone, in a safe and fun environment.
If you have not experienced immersive theatre before, I would thoroughly recommend For King and Country as a first foray – you may find yourself having fun before you realise it!