The Rules of Inflation, Theatre N16 - Review

Political theatre. The term has connotations of heavy, didactic presentations, but the reality is it covers a broad church of practices. Bertolt Brecht's canon is political theatre. So is Henrik Ibsen's An Enemy of the People and most of his oeuvre. Very recently, theatre companies like Coney have made their mark with a series of projects that use forum theatre to galvanise audiences to make decisons about fictitious communities and dealing with the repercussions of said decisions. Some political theatre, however, is of an allegorical or metaphorical nature, like George Orwell's Animal Farm, with multiple layers of meaning beyond the obvious.

Devised by Balloons Theatre, The Rules of Inflation at Theatre N16 uses metaphor, satire and a number of other tools to obliquely show the various facets of politics across the globe. Wearing its Brechtian influences on its sleeve, the audience is welcomed to the Political ‘Party’ where balloons, 'pass the parcel' and 'musical chairs' are the order of the day, and potential candidates are chosen not by merit or by rhetoric, but by playing ‘the game’. The 'rules' are often changed at a whim, and  fairness is certainly not guaranteed.

Each of the potential candidates are dressed in a particular colour, though its significance is not directly referred to. There's 'Green' (Emily Sitch), 'Yellow' (Bryony Cole), 'Pink' (BJ McNeill) and 'Blue' (Nastazja Somers). I did wonder at first if the colours were analogous to British political parties, but as time went on, the thought that they represented personality types seemed a better fit.

Overseeing the political 'selection' is Joshua Webb, dressed in clown gear – a darker, malevolent version of the MC in Cabaret and a reminder that transparency in the global political machine is a joke, just a show for those interested in the outward appearance of things. The way that the female candidates were treated by Webb's character at times were a reminder of how women in mainstream politics are sometimes viewed and disrespected, and the smearing of mouths with lipstick to silence them the subjugation of the feminine perspective in a patriarchal system.

Whilst 'enjoy' may not be the most appropriate adjective, The Rules of Inflation constantly made me reassess about what I was seeing and feeling, and how it dovetailed into the nature of things of the world at large.

© Michael Davis 2016

The Rules Of Inflation runs at Theatre N16 until 24th March 2016.


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