22 Nov

IN Long Lane, ner Borough Tube Station there is the Colab Factory. It is not a factory. Once somebody has opened the door to you and you have climbed up the steps there is a door. You open the door and you are in an unnaturally large room. This was the room donated to the Labour Party under Jim Callaghan back in the seventies.

YOu speak to the young woman at the entrance desk. She asks you where have you come from? And gives you a ticket marked The Home Office. She tells you she is not working for the Party, she is an accountant. OK.

In the back of the room there is a small bar and you are offered a cup of tea. It is supposed to be 1979 but the tea is more like 2019 price.

Yes, we are back in 1979, The Winter of Discontent. The Lorry Drivers have gone on strike. They are represented by the Transport and General workers Union – a tough lot. They are hoping that the rest of the workers will join in the strike. And are bargaining for more money all round.

Apart from the price of tea, the illusion is complete. Try to talk to somebody in twenty first century English and they look at you with amazement and reply in seventies terms.

Of course, the drivers of this immersive theatre company are actors, the rest of the people involved in the work are the audience.

We are asked to take over the decision making etc – everyone has always said they could do it better than the politicians – and here we are being asked to run the country or at least avert a strike that would affect the whole of the country.

The show is the brain child of Tom Black, who also plays David, the organiser of the evening. We are asked to save the country and the actors are there to do our bidding but also to explain what is happening and make suggestions, but we are told it is the audience who make the big decisions.

I was there at the matinee with a rather smaller audience than they are used to, it also meant that I was never able to sit around and watch what was going on. I had to be in it.

The evening concluded with the television of a meeting including some of the audience, which is made on the spot in a small studio just off the main room and relayed live to the company.

The television has a real part to play during the happenings as it is turned on to the actual channel of the day and it generally sets up the atmosphere for us with speeches from Margaret Thatcher, leader of the opposition and episodes from a soap opera. Sadly we had no time to watch this or even to sit down.

Nevertheless, apart from all the talk about money and percentages and stuff I cannot follow, it really turned out to be a load of fun and I quite enjoyed giving important jobs in Callaghan’s new cabinet to annoyed delegates over the old fashioned phones.

The actors joining Tom in the show are Beth Jay, Zoe Flint, angus Woodward, Jaya Baldwin, Christopher Styles and Chloe Mashiter

If you have a taste for politics, you will have a really good time.


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