Relinquishing control is one of those things you’re always encouraged to do as an artist.
We’re meant to relish the idea that something creative can happen without having to force it ourselves – creativity should just flow. And yet, relinquishing agency can be one of the most difficult things you can do as an artist.
In some ways, this idea is the premise for Quick Bright Things. Set it up, and then let it all happen. So a massive hats off to SUDS Alumni, Jim Fishwick and Kendra Murphy for trying out something that most artists can only dream of achieving.
Quick Bright Things is advertised as an immersive theatre experience devised. Performers/participants are allocated a revamped, teenage character from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, prior to the show. (Thankfully, for us Shakespeare novices, an understanding of the play isn’t necessary). Each character is given a simple description devised by Russell Kale, and a set of goals which they have to achieve in order to create ‘equilibrium.’ It’s in the perusal of these goals which makes the drama unfold.
The drama didn’t so much unfold as torrent down. What began with a few timid warm up games quickly escalated into a flurry of teenage gossip, bitchiness, shifting alliances, petty revenge and a fair share of romantic wind ups. The moment the Drama teacher stepped away, it felt like we were in a shark pool.
The game works well. Propelled forward by whatever it is your character has to achieve, relationships are forged quickly and secrets are spilled generously. Every person seems to have enough of their own personal issues to deal with that the two and a half hours seems to fly by with only just enough time to resolve the mysteries although many of those mysteries remain uncovered.
One of the most challenging things about Quick Bright Things is identifying parameters. As a player trying to achieve ‘equilibrium’ is it in your best interest to try and create as much drama as possible, or should you aim to make it through the game relatively unscathed? Although the fun of the game relies heavily on things going awry it begs the question: whose drama deserves to take precedence?
I was impressed that the participants in my session of Quick Bright Things, managed to hold the story together, respect each other’s personal space, and participate in the game in a way that enriched the experience for others and not just themselves. I do worry that finding a group of players to keep the game afloat in such a way will be difficult when it’s completely opened up to a public audience.
Additionally, I can’t help but think that there is potential to use Quick Bright Things as a learning tool. It’s got all the hallmarks of a show that can be used beyond pure entertainment value, but to help uncover some kind of moral from the way humans behave when left largely unsupervised. It’s hard to say how you could include a pedagogical element into the show; perhaps the creators could utilize some kind of hierarchy or points system, or even a simple debrief afterwards. I certainly found that one of the most interesting part of the experience was revealing my role to the other characters after the game had ended.
Quick Bright Things is certainly a worthwhile experiment – forcing the participants to get in touch with their manipulative, romantic and secretive sides. I think there is untapped potential in what the show can achieve, but more than anything it’s a complete riot. And you totally get to ‘make out’ with complete strangers. As if that’s not a selling point.