Imagine a show where audience members strike skittles, scramble over bits of cotton wool and decide the narrative’s trajectory using lights on the end of their thumbs. That’s one way to sum up Hidden Track’s entrancing Standard:Elite, which the Richard Whiteley Theatre had the pleasure of playing host to last Thursday.
Essentially a playful exploration of class and privilege, the story is rooted in a prince’s odyssey back towards his Highground homeland, and the succour given to him by an ignoble, Lowground girl. It again demonstrates the theatre’s commitment to bringing the most acclaimed Edinburgh Fringe productions to the Dales; Standard:Elite received three five-star reviews during its run in the Scottish capital last summer.
Most impressive is the way in which Writer Elliot Hughes and Director Anoushka Bonwick have subtly moulded the play’s themes into the performance. For example, only a minority of the audience, known as the Elites, dictate the avenues that the storyline takes – it’s quite thought provoking.
Alongside some larger-than-life animal characters, this is where the loopy games work wonderfully as they exquisitely provide the piece with spurts of zealous superficiality, which are of course all the more welcome in our current pandemic-stricken world. If the storyline is a day of lessons, the games are the break times for the kids to run off steam, but neither quite conform to its school-context features. The lessons are packed with silliness, and even the break times offer some topical enlightenment.
From an acting point of view, it’s very hard to fault, which is incredible when you consider the several different routes that the story could take, and so the vastness of dialogue that must be ingrained in the brains of the actors. The performers are also excellent in building rapports with those in the audience, another important skill for such interactive work.
The show epitomises Hidden Track’s high level of expertise when it comes to creating accessible performance, which is both interactive and political. Keep your eyes peeled for any revivals; particularly in the present state of austerity, the only thing that would’ve made it substantially better would’ve been if you could wrap yourself in the cotton wool!