This ingenious thought experiment from Zoe Svendsen – Joe Hill-Gibbins’ dramaturg on The Changeling – and Simon Daw encourages you to think about where your clothes come from, who makes them, and at what cost.
The production takes the form of a game. The audience is divided into teams and assigned their own garment factories, which they must then run together. Each factory starts out with an initial pot of money and a pool of workers. We are asked to make decisions about our business via a series of cards. Each invites us to make a choice. Do we take the ethical route or do we play harder and dirtier and try and make more of a profit? Are we even clear what the ethical choice is? Do we pay our workers a fairer wage if it means having to lay some of them off? Do we stick to making work wear or switch to higher turnover, lower quality fashion items? Do we take a backhander from a government official? Do we hire illegal migrants? Children?
The game, which plays out in the grim, grey cube of the Young Vic’s Maria studio, is overseen by four dealers – Naomi Christie, Lucy Ellinson, Heather Lai, and Jamie Martin – who complicate things further, laying on the pressure, demanding the occasional bribe.
To get the most out the experience you need to really engage with it. It’s an ambitious, provocative and intricate piece of game-making, evading easy answers and polemic while succeeding in making us think – and think hard – about the cost of our clothing.