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The Majority review at National Theatre, London – ‘fun, but frustrating’

Rob Drummond in The Majority at the National Theatre. Photo: Ellie Kurttz Rob Drummond in The Majority at the National Theatre. Photo: Ellie Kurttz
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95% liberal, 92% white, 52% female, 92% remain. That is the – perhaps unsurprising – make up of the National Theatre audience on press night for Rob Drummond’s new interactive play.

Audience members are given voting devices and asked to have their say on issues like ‘should latecomers be admitted’ or ‘should the UK leave the EU’ while, between these flash polls, Drummond tells the story of Eric, a man he met after the Scottish independence referendum.

It’s the contrast between story and statistics that works best, the interlocking of Drummond’s monologue, that attempts to dig into Eric’s heart and mindset, with the brute force of numbers.

What Drummond shows through his relaxed and affable performance, standing in the middle of Jemima Robinson’s circular gameshow-style set, is the difference between the mind of one man and the mind of a mob. Because the thing about voting in, say, a referendum – as Drummond points out – is that you don’t get to explain why you voted the way you did.

But that’s sort of where the show’s insight ends. For long periods it forgets the voting element – and the votes themselves, well, do we take them seriously? Although there are questions designed to have immediate consequences, the stakes of those votes are too low to break the notion that this is just a piece of theatre with no meaningful extension into the real world. When one audience member wants to go to the toilet, why not vote ‘no’? Just for the anarchic hell of it?

By the end, twisting himself into wondering whether there are limits to free speech, it seems as if Drummond has pledged to really listen to what Nazis have to say while encouraging audience members to be equally fair-minded. While it’s a fun show, like the democratic system it comments on, it has its limitations.

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Fun, but frustrating look at the limits of democracy and free speech