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Losers review at Rosemary Branch Theatre, London – ’emotionally engaging’

Sophie Thompson and Rachel Johnson in Losers at the Rosemary Branch Theatre, London. Photo: Debbie Y

Pitched somewhere between a high-stakes drinking game and an unethical 1950s psychology experiment, Losers explores the contemporary obsession with celebrity. Equipped with handsets for electronic voting, and assured that “no question could be too inappropriate”, the audience is asked to judge four contestants auditioning for reality TV.

The young, committed cast – who devised and designed the production as a dissertation project – play caricatures of themselves, likeable, flawed, and desperate for fame. In a few minutes of pre-show preamble, they each establish a distinct persona, trying out various tactics for winning us over. Arthur Jones, for example, flirts and flatters, while a hyperactive Rachel Johnson hands out signed headshots.

As the performance goes on, and the forfeits for failure become increasingly sadistic, these strategies give way to backstabbing, catty cruelty, and shameless spectacle.

Silly set-pieces – such as a flawlessly executed dance routine to Beyonce’s Single Ladies – slowly segue into outright humiliation, flagellation, and a particularly unpleasant use of a stapler. Buzzers blare and countdowns tick away on omnipresent screens as the performers preen and demean themselves for our approval, literally scrabbling for the spotlight.

All this exhibitionism could easily become grotesque, but Tit4Twat has taken care to make the show emotionally engaging, too. Repeatedly put on the spot, the performers display genuine vulnerability, as well as impressive improvisational skills.

Beneath the scornful satire, this is a surprisingly thoughtful study of the dynamics that drive some to seek fame at any cost, and compel others to watch them try.

Verdict
Tit4Twat’s interactive, tech-savvy popularity contest dissects the reality TV phenomenon

Production Information

Production
Losers
Venue
Rosemary Branch Theatre
City
London
Starts
August 2, 2016
Ends
August 14, 2016
Press night
August 4, 2016
Authors
Tit4Twat, Joshua Beckman, Will Barratt
Director
Tit4Twat
Design
Tit4Twat
Technical
Paul Philipson, University of Warwick (AV support)
Cast includes
Rachel Johnson, Arthur Jones, Tom Swale, Sophie Thompson
Producer
Tit4Twat Theatre Company
Running time
1hr 10mins