Undoubtedly a clever and engaging concept, Focus Group ultimately feels lacking in direction and purpose.
This is one of the most unusual and quirky experiences at the theatre that I have had for a long time, which resulted in leaving me feeling confused and uncertain about what I had just seen.
Inspired by the short story Mister Squishy by cult US writer David Foster Wallace, Focus Group explores the absurdity of modern life and consumer culture in a darkly humorous way.
The second the audience steps into the auditorium, they are automatically put at their ease with the performers coming up and talking to them and inviting them to play a little bit of ping pong (which plays a big part in the show) and setting up what to expect for the duration of the show.
In terms of a concept, there is nothing like it. It is consistently engaging, uses the audience to great effect – but it feels slightly soulless and clinical, there is nothing to emotionally engage with and it feels purposeless, which is a real shame considering how clever the idea is.
But it does flow with ease and has plenty of pace to it which increases as the piece intensifies towards the end.
There is plenty humour – particularly during the audience interactions in which we help to try and define the brand of Mr Kipling and everything is carried off well by the performances of Stu Barter ,Clare Dunn and Terry O’Donovan who all make you feel an important part of the show.
Everything about the show works – except that the message behind it doesn’t come through strongly enough and perhaps relies too much on trying to be clever in technique to make it clear to the audience.
If you like your immersive theatre then chances are you will enjoy this show – but for those who like their theatre a little more clearly defined then you might struggle slightly. Interesting ideas and concept but it doesn’t quite work overall.
Focus Group is playing at the Ovalhouse Theatre until the 4th February. For more information and to book tickets visit: http://www.ovalhouse.com/whatson/detail/focus-group