Nathan Hardie explores the relationship between spectator and show in The Enlightened
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To describe The Enlightened and fully encompass everything is a tough task that even the creators struggled with. Provided by an audience member during the Q & A, the most accurate logline so far is ‘Multimedia True Crime podcast on stage’, yet I feel this doesn’t give a production involving online audience participation and live Zoom calls to India enough gravitas.
Director Liam Rees planned to be even more ambitious – his original idea of running simultaneous productions rendered unfeasible for several reasons. Time differences, curfews, unstable internet connections and authoritarian interference, it’s miraculous that any piece can survive these obstacles, without mentioning that they had to switch apps from Discord to WhatsApp the day prior to performance.
It’s the interaction with the audience that becomes The Enlightened’s biggest strength. Covering cults and culture, fascism and fetishism, there’s a lot of new information that felt very overwhelming. However, sending links and key quotes via a communal group chat kept me onboard and informed. It also turned individual spectators into a group of conspiracy theorists, questioning what really happened to a disillusioned, young white male who had disappeared in India. Through a WhatsApp poll, several audience members voted for a government cover-up to be the true reason, even one voted for a murder case. With such an experimental piece, I can’t even be sure if these results swayed the direction of the story.