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Early Days (of a Better Nation)

Scene from Early Days (Of A Better Nation) at Four Thieves, London. Photo by Ryoko Uyama. Scene from Early Days (Of A Better Nation) at Four Thieves, London. Photo by Ryoko Uyama.

The fictional nation of Dacia is now a failed state, after the toppling of its ruling dictator. Interactive theatre company Coney turns the audience into a crisis council to negotiate the way forward.

Upon arrival, audience members are assigned to one of Dacia’s three regions and coached in that area’s immediate problems. It’s a nifty bit of social engineering; the resentment between the optimistic, well-fed islanders and more embattled city-dwellers simmers from the off, before bubbling over into jeering and chants.

The four central performers do well to draw ideas and improvisations from the audience, lightly embellishing a world that seems tangible. They don’t hog the focus, and they don’t intend to.

Instead it is role-play, debate and participation that are central. While figures from the revolution explain the humanitarian dilemmas facing Dacia and guide the council process, it is the audience that votes on where to take the narrative, the audience that offers the most interesting characters, and the audience that brings the conflict.

The exercise is overlong, and the lightness of a reporter keeping tabs on the summit is tonally off. At its best though, the show confronts you with your own political ideals, and reveals just how easily you may abandon them.

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Convincing political fiction that throws the audience into the starring role