This intriguing and irreverent show brings point and click action on to the stage. Game over or next level?
Venue: Project Cube
Date Reviewed: December 4th, 2014
There is an episode of the US sitcom 30 Rock in which one of the characters tries so hard to meld the apparently irreconcilable mediums of video games and pornography (sorry) that he nearly goes mad. In Fused, writer and director Dan Bergin similarly attempts to combine video games with the seemingly no less incompatible form of theatre, though in this case it is the audience that is more likely to be driven to distraction.
If this seem likes cutting-edge drama – it was originally performed at last year’s Tiger Dublin Fringe festival – Bergin’s production is in fact an exercise in digital nostalgia, taking its cue from the “point-and-click” games of the late 1980s. The premise is straightforward enough: a panel of randomly selected audience members take turns to navigate the drama’s central character Ste, aka actor Ste Murrary, through a series of scenarios. Along the way, Ste finds puzzles that need solving and encounters various stock characters – wiseguy gangsters, fleeing spies, femmes fatales – who have to be negotiated with in order for him to progress further.
The end product is high on playfulness and improvisation. The interactive element ensures unpredictability of action and even plot, with the audience choosing to send Ste on either an espionage or mafia adventure. (The latter storyline prevailed on this particular night.) The set mimics the bold graphics of the vintage computer games while allowing for quick stage changes, which is just as well, for Ste is frequently asked to switch location.
But for all the irreverent atmosphere and pleasingly uninhibited audience participation, the production is also deeply frustrating at times. There are frequent dead ends as the players fail to solve the onstage conundrums. Meanwhile, the young cast – Anne Gill, Barry Morgan, Eddie Murphy and Camille Lucy Ross – are game (sorry), but are frequently reduced to the caricature of student drama level. (Though in fairness, it’s video-game characters they are portraying, not Hamlet.) Too often, proceedings are frantic and directionless yet tediously repetitive, to the point that the supposedly neutral Ste ends up giving out hints to the players.
For all its unevenness, however, Fused is an intriguing and irreverent exercise in cross-pollination. Who knows, if it can find an audience that knows how to play the game well, it may yet achieve a higher score.
Until December 13