Rob Drummond is playfully engaging and surprisingly relatable in this immersive production which invites the audience to vote “yes” or “no” – changing the events of each night.
“The Majority” serves as Drummond’s return to the National Theatre after the acclaimed “Bullet Catch” which explored free will and illusion; these themes remain prominent throughout his newest creation. The audience can vote “yes”,”no” or abstain – just like in a true democracy. There is no opportunity for the voters to defend their views or to explain the many facets within their judgments – the results are stark and unforgiving. At first, they seem relatively easy to hear. We discover that we have a mostly non-male audience who would vote “no” in the EU referendum. They identify as liberal but do not believe in entirely free speech – the irony of this is not lost on Drummond or the audience!
Drummond is dynamic as he drives across the stage. It feels almost candid and there is a sense that he is not simply playing a part – he is revealing himself to his audience in pursuit of answers. However, this does not mean that he allows the audience to escape from difficult decisions. He switches from engaging rapport to interrogation in an instant, utilizing the trolley problem to display how flexible our ethics can be. While the audience votes, he sits under harsh lighting, staring out from screens so – no matter where a voter is sitting – they see him watching.
The results from these votes are shocking. Almost three-quarters of the audience would flip a lever to kill one (and save five), but less than a quarter would push someone off a bridge to halt the train’s movement towards the workers – despite it having the same logical impact. Fewer than fifteen percent would flip the lever if it was their child rather than a stranger who would be sacrificed to save the five workers. It is seeing these statistics which have just been gathered, then looking around at the audience to try and understand why they made their choices – if they are cruel and heartless or sentimentally illogical in the latter example. The juxtaposition of openness – you can see everyone else in the intimate space – and privacy when voting ensures that the outcome of any vote remains uncertain.
The plot of the production is fluid but remains engaging. The focus – from my viewing, at least – is the Scottish independence referendum but it explores everything from beekeeping to Nazism. Drummond treats these topics with the same level of passion and interest. The theme of democracy could easily become clinical – dry history and philosophy lectures in a theatre – but Drummond’s discussion of the complexities of human relationships is intertwined with the hard-hitting questions he asks.
In a final crescendo, he begs the audience to listen to – instead of attacking – those who have different opinions to them. He tells them to question and to be open to change. Leaving the theatre, I can hear friends debating the ethics of their responses to the various questions. They are passionate but they are aware of the opposing views around them. Others chat about their evening plans. Some are still arguing about the EU referendum. It’s almost impossible to divide the politics and the people.
“The Majority” is now mostly sold out but £20 tickets are released on Fridays at 1pm. It runs until 28 August.