Alphabetti Theatre, Newcastle – until 18 March 2023
Reviewed by Jessica Brady
Great technical and interactive elements for an audience but a confusing end from where we begin.
On a rainy Wednesday eve in Newcastle I ventured to the wonderful Alphabetti Theatre to see Person Spec which has been created by Forest Sounds Theatre, a company that strives to push the boundaries between audience and actor, exploring how we treat others, and how we treat ourselves.
Disguised as a corporate recruitment event, Person Spec is a participatory performance piece that invites audience members to be an active and essential part of a looming first job interview.
The show is held together with a mixture of technical interaction and a singular character- Marion played by Inés Collado. Marion is an unemployed woman in her twenties whose second language is English. She is on the precipice of a whole new life and this interview is a huge opportunity for her.
Structured around a series of interview tasks, Person Spec let’s the audience facilitate and rate Marion’s performance through a cleverly placed projection which is updated in real time based on audience suggestions and with a series of prompts for the audience to read in unison. The audience is very much a second character throughout the show and used cleverly to progress the story and add many moments of humour.
However, as the interview progresses it becomes apparent that these tasks aren’t intended merely for Marion, but are a part of something a lot more sinister. Whether the candidate succeeds or not is down to the audience and ‘Zantion Recruitment’ has every faith in them.
Inés Collado gives an authentic and truthful performance showing the desperation of wanting more for herself by jumping through many hoops (including a twerk) in order for her true self to be seen by people who can change her future prospects.
The initial set up of the show works well and is cleverly designed to allow an easiness for participatory action with some genuinely funny moments and an opportunity to look at the idea of how humans are measured by potential. However there seems to be a slight disconnect in the way the first half of the show is structured to how it ends. I was left feeling a little confused as to what had shifted in the performance and where we were led to by the end of the show. What started out as a lighthearted clever jibe at how people are categorised and their worth measured, ended with a dark setting where we were taken to a scenario from the interview that became real life (a boat and stranded on a desert island). Perhaps the symbolic nature of the end show passed me by but I left the show wishing that we had continued down the road that we had started on at the beginning of the piece.
The set and digital aspects of this show are really clever and I haven’t been to a show which uses this as a device so well in a long time. It is certainly worth going to see the show to experience the digital screen action which has a whole personality of its own.
Overall, I feel the show has a lot of potential to be a ground breaking interactive adventure but would need some tweaks to make it feel cohesive as it felt like I had watched two difference pieces by the end.
You can catch Person Spec at Alphabetti Theatre from Tuesday 28th February– Saturday 18th March 2023, 1:00pm and 7:30pm.