Devising is an incredibly interesting concept. A troupe of actors working to create a piece of theatre has the potential to bring something new to the stage. This idea is at the core of Blackbox. Headed up by Oli Savage, Blackbox is St Andrews’ first devising troupe, and though technically formed last year, this semester is the first time the troupe has staged a production. This past Monday was their first showcase of what they could do – the result? It’s a bit tough to describe.
The Blackbox show for this semester, entitled Our Voter, was written and staged around the theme of Britain’s biggest political question of 2016: Brexit. The way the script went about dealing with this massive topic was by staging a day in the life of a series of voters before the vote actually occurred, exploring how the debate surrounding the vote affected them. On the whole, this did a pretty good job of expressing what made Brexit a difficult decision, and how the vote affected the relationships between people, their identities, and their internal philosophies. Beyond the core concept, performances were generally good across the board. The directing was fantastic, with Savage’s staging, choreography, and use of light and sound working perfectly for a non-linear, non-narratively focused work.
But my problem with this, and the reason I can’t give the show a star rating, is that Our Voter felt less like a devised play, and more like a collectively built work of performance art. While there were characters, lines, settings and a core message running throughout the piece, the staging and lack of a cohesive narrative made me feel less like I was watching characters, but more like I was watching inserts for specific viewpoints. This is not to say that Our Voter was bad, because it wasn’t. I actually enjoyed it quite a bit. I just don’t know what to compare it to. I can honestly say I have not seen anything quite like this in St Andrews. And I think that is a good thing. St Andrews needs institutions and people who are willing to create new and interesting things. But from the standpoint of a review, I have nothing with which to compare it. So to make this very simple: Was Our Voter Good? Yes. How good? I have absolutely no clue. Would I like more? Yes, I would.