at Warwick Arts Centre, Tuesday 11th June 2013
When I was in middle school studying Shakespeare for the first time, our English teacher used to organise a visit from a man called Anthony Glenn, who came along to create one-man versions of the Bard’s plays by getting us kids to play some of the characters and at certain moments getting the whole audience involved. They are some of my most vivid memories of those plays and I’m pretty sure they contributed fairly heftily to my ongoing obsession with Shakespeare in performance. And yesterday, as I sat on a chair and wielded guns whilst playing the roles of Anna and Hawkins in a recreation of the 1987 action film Predator, I was a child again, although this time the classic was of a rather different nature.
Andy Roberts’ show – the full title of which is Predator (Finishing off what I started when I was five) – is technically a solo affair. Yet the show begins with him sat on a chair holding up placards and asking us to read them out loud as a collective, ensuring that we are a part of events from the offset. Then, over the course of the next hour, he recreates the film, ostensibly still bitter about the fact that his brother stopped playing with him all those years ago. In order to get going, however, he needs three volunteers.
Now here’s a question for you. In a show like this, in which audience members are asked to get involved, is it okay for the guy with the press ticket to put his hand up? Should he experience the show from a unique perspective of someone inherently bound up in the performance, or should he instead view it like all the other audience members, detached and objective? And am I depriving someone of fun who has in fact paid to see the show?
All these questions sprang to mind as I decided whether or not to raise my hand when Roberts asked for volunteers, before I reached the conclusion that actually it was okay. I would still be experiencing the show as an audience member, unaware what was going to happen next and remaining at the whim of Roberts.
So I undoubtedly have a very particular understanding of the show. I don’t have a clue what it looks like from the actual audience or whether it works for the majority of people in the room. I do know, however, that I had a hell of a lot of fun.
I’ve only ever seen bits of the film Predator, but Roberts is so clear in his passion that you get swept up with the whole thing, shouting lines from the film and throwing army figures across the studio. In fact, by creating the story I now feel I know it far better than I if I’d simply watched the film, as narrative-making causes ownership.
But Predator isn’t simply an all-guns-blazing, silly, playful take on an action film. Roberts’ brother is conspicuous by his absence, mentioned throughout and even heard at one point, but never directly involved. Yet it is his refusal to continue playing which has apparently been the cause of the show’s creation; if he hadn’t given up, we wouldn’t have this experience.
It is, therefore, a hymn to play and childhood, but also raises questions about sharing, participation and storytelling. I have no idea whether or not the show is as enjoyable if simply sitting in the audience, but I can say for sure that from where I was sitting, standing and playing it filled me with an unshakeable childish glee.