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A review by Richard J Thornton for EXTRA! EXTRA!







Written by Thomas Willshire


Directed by Garret Moore


The Washington


7 - 28 October 2011




As quiz master John hands me my quiz sheet, I feel rather dubious. There's a woman gagged and bound on stage, and only two people in the audience. Is this actually some interactive meta-drama where I'm expected to reveal my contradicting morals as I choose to help the less-tragic victim? No, it’s simply an under-populated piece of comedy theatre beneath a pub in Hampstead. Another couple arrives, and the show gets going - I think.

Mark Lascelles plays John, the awkward old-before-his-age quizmaster who we're about to find out has had quite the troubled life. Polly Smith plays all the women John's ever known: his mother, his sister, his oafish first girlfriend, his psychiatrist and his current squeeze Pearl. We're asked to pick a team name. I'm the only one on my team, so it’s both a dictatorship and democracy - then Anna the producer joins me and gives me clues.

Each quiz round is pre-ambled with a scene from John's life - one of his pivotal moments with women. The questions are then a mix of real life trivia relating to the 'woman-in-question' theme: Where do Motherwell play football?, with 'tell-us-what-happened-then' memory tasks such as: Where did Rolf Harris ejaculate?

This is the future of pub quizzes. Why plod through your average trivia tyrant's pub spiel when you can hide from the shame of not knowing by chortling at comedy-sketches of an intelligent and sharply-toned nature. Once the show gets into the swing, there's an attractive rhythm to it. Just as you feel twisted by the drama on stage, you're sprung loose with a pen in hand feverishly trying to win a quiz that you can't work out why you want to win…Are there any prizes? But the competitive human spirit is enough, and it really starts to matter how old the Olson Twins are when you can see the couple in front of you irksomely flirting with each other as he tells her the unique and charming anecdote about how he met them once.

Anyway, the shows works. Lascelles depressed buffoonery links into Smith's now repulsive, now ball-breaking, now loveable characters with immediate chemistry in each vignette. Each of Smith's characterisations is snug with the script that leads it, and her work with director Garret Moore builds some of the most convincing snapshots you'll find in the London fringe. Its’ odd relationship between the audience/quiz players and the cast and the audience's participation binds them to John and his troubles in a way different to how straight theatre can work. Here, we're constantly reminded of our presence as viewer, eliminating the 'fly on the wall' experience of traditional drama, and replacing it with complicity in John's imprisonment of Pearl. Moreover, the use of the site-specific pub location doesn't so much represent a pub quiz atmosphere as it actually is one. These two features mean that the distance between drama and audience is shortened; we're already familiar with the setting, and we're already committed to the actors.

In its current form, Repeat the Question feels like an experimental blueprint of a new avenue through which to engage the public with theatre. The awkwardness of the whole event is actually promising, and its rough edges reveal the stretch marks and open space which the show has suffered and is growing into respectfully. With a few production creases ironed, and a fuller crowd that will come with positive feedback, SiteLine could be branching into a new realm of interactive but down-to-earth theatre with lucrative results. If you're interested in experiments in audience engagement, don't be afraid to Repeat the Question.


Box Office: 07426885443
Please leave a message with number of tickets, date, venue, and your name.
Alternatively, reserve tickets via
The Washington, 50 England's Lane, Belsize Park, NW3 4UE: 7th, 14th, 21th, 28th October (All performances start at 8:00pm, £6 on the door, £5 if you book)
The Balham Bowls Club 7-9 Ramsden Road, SW12 8QX: 13th, 20th, 27th October (All performances start at 8:30pm, £6 on the door, £5 if you book)
The Old Red Lion 42, Kennington Park Road Kennington SE11 4RS: 15th, 22th, 29th October (All performances start at 8:30pm, £6 on the door, £5 if you book)
The Bell 50 Middlesex Street, E1 7EX: 18th, 25th October - Map
(All performances start at 8:30pm, £6 on the door, £5 if you book )


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