Sydney Fringe HPG Festival Hub
225 Euston Road, Alexandria
Season: 6 – 30 September
Interactive theatre is a devious beast. Reliant on audience co-operation to function, it requires the actors to be on the ball at all times. Mongrel Mouth are bold in their ventures, stepping into the unknown armed with a broad storyline and excellent improvisational skills. This manifests in Undertaking, a dark thriller-style experience that has the potential to spiral into bitter violence and expose raw and gritty aspects of human nature.
In Undertaking, not only is the audience compelled to participate in the performance, but the audience genuinely steers the journey of the story. Whilst advertised as a 90-minute show, the performance I saw only ran for an hour because the actions of members of the audience took the story in a way that eventually it had to end. Because of our decision-making and interactions, we took the narrative to a place of no return. Merely the process of entering an interactive theatre space can be a deeply fascinating observational exercise, however further than that I felt the piece orchestrated a strong illustration of the human capacity for action, or perhaps more significantly, inaction.
I can’t say too much about the plot because it will spoil the narrative, which works well with the tension of surprise - but also because I imagine the performance would yield different results and work through a different process night after night. I think it’s wonderful that the Mongrel Mouth team and cast possess the fervour and might to embrace this experience and bring it to the fore for us all to enjoy. Initially it is difficult to distinguish the planted actors from the audience, and I found myself amusingly suspicious of the behaviour of some of my fellow audience members as you are left to roam a large and eerie office space. Whilst I largely did feel engaged, I wonder if the performance space was too spread out for the action which predominantly took place in two main rooms. Perhaps it diminished the energy a little, which otherwise would have been pertinent and highly focused. Once the action really gets underway, things progress rapidly, and I think the more you embrace the introduced conflict and presented challenges, the more you’ll relish the experience. Each performer builds with the tension, engaging in a spectrum of emotion that is carried with such blaring circumstances.
Undertaking is quite an intense piece of interactive theatre, that dares you to back away from brutal images and circumstance. No matter what, your decision to act, or not to act, makes an impact…sometimes one that is irreconcilable and may leave you reeling. This is a dark analogy for our reality as Australians and global citizens today. It matters, and can’t be ignored.