© Alice Ripoll

The Independent on Fight Night

07/08/2013 — Traverse Theatre Edinburgh 2013: Fight Night - An interactive cross between Big Brother and an Italian general election **** (4 stars)

A great play can leave the audience stunned into silence but a good one can have people leaving the theatre in a ferment of excitement – which is what happened with Fight Night. The bar of the Traverse Theatre was abuzz with debate.

The company’s general manager was bombarded with questions in the corridor. There were animated discussions at the bus stop in the Lothian Road. One member of the audience got so over-excited that she even accosted a member of the cast during the performance asking questions.

At the start of Fight Night the audience is given a small interactive voting device before five candidates parade out onto the stage and the spectators are asked to vote for one – knowing the bottom one will be eliminated. No basis is given on which to select.

What follows is a cross between Big Brother and an Italian general election. It is a study of the dynamics of voting systems but one which is utterly compelling and fun. Aptly it has been put together by a theatrical coalition from Belgium, Australia and the UK, centred on the Drum Theatre in Plymouth. It ends differently every night.

The show goes beyond the psychology of voting systems to confront us with the prejudices that underpin our personal politics. Occasionally its internal logic is dodgy but you will leave stimulated, annoyed, intrigued and perhaps having learned something about yourself from which you were trying to hide.


Fight Night **** (4 stars)
Ontroerend Goed returns with another bold political production
Date: 6 August 2013

Fight Night follows Belgian company Ontroerend Goed’s previous look at the complicity of the bystander, Audience, by again making the spectator get involved. The set-up is simple: there are a series of voting rounds with each stage allowing the candidates to explain a little about themselves. Although it is possible that the entire process has been rigged, the appearance of a free vote is maintained throughout.

By focusing on the mechanics of the voting process, and stripping away any political platforms, Goed exposes the limitations of elections. Here it is shown that the democratic process is inevitably doomed to destroy choice. The final result of their electoral process is disturbing: one candidate is rejected by the audience because he is clearly most like them, reflecting their uncertainty and self-loathing. Another candidate tries to buck the system, and effectively removes the participation of those questioning the process.

Fight Night is bold, and obnoxious. It mocks liberal assumptions about goodwill and democracy. The final revelation – a silent screen projecting the identity of the most powerful being in the room – is nihilistic while the disruption of true democracy is littered with uneasy alliances and ironic results.

The final revelation becomes the naming of the beast, the individual who holds the power in democracy and effectively destroys it through their ubiquity. True to form, Ontroerend Goed offer no escape.

Traverse, until 25 Aug (not 5, 12, 19), times vary, £17–£19 (£12–£14).