CULT is an interactive show in which the audience has been invited as one of the 'chosen few' to join an organisation called RISE, a subtle nod at organisations like scientology. Th set-up of a meeting was smart for an interactive show, and the assembly-like presentation of people, unsure of how they had arrived, contributed to the 'cult-y' atmosphere.
Image provided by the theatre.
Characters were well developed, and the struggles with addiction and childhood trauma leading characters to the cult were explored in depth. Tensions between the leaders were at times amusing, with the more businesslike leader being unceremoniously pushed off stage as she asked for donations, in order to make way for the more 'devout' to take her place. These tensions highlighted the violent and charismatic personalities inherent in a cult-like organisation, which would have been interesting to see explored more.
In places, the play relied too much on the audience, with audience members occasionally throwing off the tone and tension of the production, through people laughing or making jokes. However, the use of the audience in creating the final tableau of the play, with 'newly initiated members' stood on stage, had the intended spooky effect. Whilst occasionally falling off the bandwagon, the use of the audience was intelligently done for something that can often fall flat.
Whilst at the start of the play the capitalistic intent of RISE seemed clear, by the end there seemed to be a supernatural explanation for its existence. This seemed like a missed opportunity to discuss some of the exploitation and corporate-esque greed that was clearly being played off at the start of the play. In the end, for better or worse, the inferences of rampant capitalism and suppression of journalists, seemed more terrifying to me than the supernatural that lay at the core of this cult.
Ultimately, this was a well-thought through production that pulled off an interesting concept and audience participation well. However, it was unfortunately disengaged with the true physiological manipulation and financial incentives that lies at the heart of many of the organisations we might consider 'cults' today.
CULT was on at the Pleasance Theatre until the 16th of October.
Edited by Alexia McDonald, Digital Editor