Thought provoking, witty and powerful this production left me with interesting questions and two images that will stay with me.
Perhaps that power is not surprising as the writer, Andy Owen Cook, speaks of the birth of the play in a year he was made redundant twice during the global recession. The byline states that it is “not a normal theatre show. It is a job interview. And you are the panel”. This was not entirely hopeful for me. Overall I usually dislike job interviews and am none too comfortable with interactive theatre. However both concerns were of no consequence, it is hugely enjoyable and any interaction seemed of low stress to me as part of the group.
So, we’re the interview panel for Zantion Recruitment. Zantion is present in the form of a readout on a screen and occasional video. It begins the process by inviting us to take a survey (which may be used in how the questions are set up). Then it teaches us our role – basically to feed off its question cues. We ask questions in unison as this panel — something I found curiously like being in church, together with some of its other icebreaking exercises. I found that a fruitful allusion given how central an employer may like its view of the world to be in its employees lives.
This production is very well thought through. I loved the set and technology designed around it. I was left with a couple of very strong images of the night – one I could swear involving data shining in a character’s eyes quite demonically (which I loved and hope was not a facet of my eye sight). That technology takes us on an interesting journey – it begins as almost charming in that ways the tech can interface with us, get glitchy, be irritating – and this morphs gradually into the more sinister edge it always had. It all becomes more and more obviously a trap — and one which the production made me think more clearly about in how that may be serving others, hidden far behind it and keeping us where they want us. Technology enforcing through its glitches a limitation of choice that may have been chosen.
But that journey into this rabbit hole takes time – we are here to interview Marion (Inés Collado). Slightly late human being, also late to her career path as she stayed at home after university to look after elderly relatives, but eager to advance now. The production very aware of the ways in which modern processes so often have no time for such steps away from the standard or normal. And the initial tests Marion goes through played with a light wit to us the audience/interviewers who got to inject some of our own ideas. I loved the absurd cognitive tests that of course told the computer Everything it wanted to know of her in these our days of data divination.
But they are not the end. Marion stands her ground as a human being when the machine would dismiss her — but perhaps the machine has its revenge in a further series of tests of increasing seriousness and pressure. At times I was tempted to think of the interviewee as victim (where does that leave us interviewers?) – someone whose attendance has seemingly sanctioned a psycho-spiritual dissection of themselves. But there is more to Marion than simple victim in her choices.
Overall we are complicit somehow – with Zantion, with Marion, with a sort of inertia maybe and how technology and the modern world place us. I wondered in later parts of the play how we may have had a more active part as audience — and I do wonder if our responses gave a more active part than I know. But the key thing was achieved, we are connected to what happens more actively than we had been.
The second image that has stayed with me was the final image of Marion, but not just her but of ourselves as an audience/interviewers with her. Is Marion right we were asked. There is something about how she and we were made part of a system that something in me likes an idea of refusing to be part of. I went home and read an article about the experience of some astronauts seeing the Earth from space without borders, wars, economies. But of course they have to return to the (hu)man-made world as well. Where is the choice that would let us refuse to be made part of this system. Marion may see much more clearly than I have liked to.
Overall, as we have reached the bottom of the rabbit hole I was left with questions as to who created it, as I have a horrible feeling as well as being stuck in it myself, that I’m part of that too, and still have questions as to whether it can be avoided. Maybe there are forces at play that were off stage here, not just in the audience, but more widely.
Hugely thought provoking, this play blazes a trail of understanding and exploring processes that are imposed on us with so little explanation and remain recognisable somehow despite being heightened as fiction here. All involved in this successful production must be thanked and congratulated. I highly recommend it to anyone over 16 and especially to anyone trying to come to terms with the processes of finding employment and how that may work in our culture now.
Writer Andy Owen Cook (he/him)
Director Alfie Heffer (he/him)
Producer Belisa Branças (she/her)
Performer Inés Collado (she/her)
Dramaturg Olga Hernandez (she/her)
Graphic Designer Jingyi Yu (she/her)
Sound Designer/ Composer Cameron Naylor (they/them)
Stage/Technical Manager Frances Allison (she/her)
Video Artist Peter Martin (he/him)
Video Editor Aaron Mears (they/them)
Digital Developer Michael Cook (they/them)
With support from Damein Reay, Elinor Bryant, Emily Toth, Georgia Brennan,
James Wilkinson, Jess Corner, and Reece Lumsden who took part in the
workshops in Newcastle.
Dates Tuesday 28th February– Saturday 18th March 2023
Time 7:30pm, 1:00pm Saturday matinees
Tickets Pay What You Feel (28th February – 4th March)
£3-£15 (7th March – 18th March)
Running Time 75 mins
Age Restrictions 16+
Content Warnings This performance may contain themes and language that some audiences may find upsetting and distressing for more information please contact the theatre.
Access Captioned performance (Wednesday, 8th of March)
Audio Described performance (Wednesday, 15th of March) 
Relaxed performances each Saturday matinee.
Box Office Booking essential. Tickets range from Pay What You Feel to £15 and are available from https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/alphabetti-theatre/person-spec/e-zdkxkg