The Agency (Ponydog Productions) - London Horror Festival

The Agency (Ponydog Productions) - London Horror Festival
The Agency is a sci-fi, black comedy and interactive production that transports the audience to a dystopian Britain in 2029 where the Ministry of Justice, amongst other public services, has been privatised due to Britain’s many failings in the 2010s. Currently running these services is the giant corporation The Agency: ‘’bringing the ‘us’ in justice’’. The scene is clearly set by comedic duo agent Chuck and Cherry (played by Chris Elms and Niamh Blackman) who take us through the history of The Agency and inform us that prior to buying out the Ministry of Justice an agreement had been made that this corporation would operate as a democracy; thus inviting jurors (we, the audience) to make decisions collectively on all criminal cases.

“The punishment is ultimately decided by the audience”

Connected to an app on our phone we get to debate, interrogate and finally decide through online voting the fate of criminal cases brought to us. There is a mixture of interaction involved in this piece. How much one interacts is up to the individual but I warn you, it won’t be any fun if you don’t interact at all. The punishment is ultimately decided by the audience and this worked tremendously well. A great success is the piece’s receptiveness to ideas brought forward by the audience to alternative methods of dealing with the criminals; allowing us to feel more included in the process. Elms and Blackman were excellent at accomplishing the arduous task of engaging with the audience’s questions and feedback and incorporating those into the piece, the result of which is a different outcome every performance, depending on the collective decisions of the audience. The fact that people were participating and engaging in dialogue is in itself an achievement but not only that, the production was a joy to partake in with the right balance between involvement and storytelling. Whilst The Agency is well thought out piece with a coherent dramaturgical structure, there were elements of the production that needed development. The shift within the second half needs a stronger and sharper contrast to achieve the desired effect on the audience. This could be helped by there being a greater noticeable change in the two agent characters. Unfortunately, both actors let this side of the performance down as the lack of a definitive change really stood out in comparison to the truthfulness and heart-wrenching performance of Georgie Oulton as Bunny in the second half; in effect diminishing the impact of Bunny’s story. Furthermore, the stakes of the final decision were not high enough, nor did I personally feel that we as the audience got much of a pay-off from making that decision. Further development of the characters would add the necessary detail and intrigue to provide the production with a better arc. The Agency is a valiant attempt to mix live performance, technology and participation, making it an enjoyable production to experience but the few potholes really need to be filled so that this piece can have the impact it deserves. The Agency will be performing in the London Horror Festival at the Old Red Lion Theatre until Thursday 11 October 2018. More information can be found here.

3/5

Image: Ponydog Productions
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