“Who is more admirable?” ask Pavlos Christodoulou, “David Attenborough or the Dalai Lama?” It’s the first in a series of absurd questions put to contestants and audience in I Want You to Admire Me/But You Shouldn’t, an amusing satire about praise and shame by Dirty Rascals.
The devising theatre company use the set-up of the classic TV game show, with live studio audience, to delve into our desire to be deemed worthy in someone else’s eyes, along with the flip-side to this form of self-valuation.
It’s easy to see appreciate the parallels with contemporary online culture – in particular Twitter – and the way one ill-judged comment can precipitate the rapid crash and burn of a reputation. Musician David Denyer reiterates this analogy by performing in an oversized, padded mask of the ‘crying with laughter’ emoji.
Christodoulou is very funny as the over-zealous and slightly sarcastic host. He is joined by Howard (Howard Horner), the call centre worker with a sideline in ornithology, Hannah (Hannah Donelon) the English grad turned primary school teacher, and Emily (Emily Prudence), an earnest American who somehow forgot to vote in the last US election.
As successive rounds play out, the atmosphere becomes increasingly frenzied and the format unravels. The basic joke of the piece is on the verge on becoming tired when it ends with an unexpectedly precise capturing of how hideous public humiliation can be.
For a piece of theatre still at an early stage of development, its slick delivery and conciseness of idea is more than highly admirable.