A play with no actors, no set storyline, 30 hats and a wilderness behind a door where supposedly friendly bears live. Welcome to the beautiful world of A Small Town Anywhere, Coney’s latest adventure designed to put the audience in the driving seat and at the heart of a quite magical community.
Before the audience are taken into the small town, we are introduced to the small town historian Henri (Tom Bowtell), the only actor we ever meet. Explaining a little bit about his slightly Gallic self, we are shown a virtually blank book recounting the history of the small town in question. It is our job as the audience to choose our political allegiance and help reconstruct what happened over the period of one eventful week. Putting an end to the anxious worries of interactive theatre virgins and actors whose career climaxed somewhere in the 70s playing the innkeeper in the Christmas nativity, the audience are told there can be no mistakes made and we can be as active, or as merely observant, citizens as we choose.
This is actually not the first time several members of the audience have experienced Henri. Before you venture to the BAC and discover the magical and escapist town that lies within, you can choose to take the opportunity to contact the historian and discover more about the town and yourself.
When I am given my green trilby and badge, I already know I am guilty of adultery and desertion. What I don’t know is that by the end of the evening I may very well be a bigamist who has entered into revolutionary political alliances and tried to flirt my way into corrupting the town priest and persuading him to denounce his conservative ways.
Being at the centre of the play itself – which is arguably more of a game or, dare you to read further into it, a social experiment – is undoubtedly at first thought a daunting prospect for many, but the production allows you to choose exactly how involved to be. There is absolutely no need to act, but as you watch the bookmaker and the teacher strike a deal, you may get more swept away in your role than you expected. Even if you decide to merely sit and observe the action in the town pub or behind your butcher’s block, you may well become a key citizen by simply taking advantage of the town’s postal service to perhaps reveal the chanteuse’s affair with the priest or bribe the philosophical prisoner with your knowledge of his sordid parties.
Led by the sultry voice of the town crier and the arrival of letters from your fellow town citizens, each day as you become immersed in your groups’ own unique community the story may be different, but the key question of whether the town will survive and which political party will fall is always answered. The least moral member of the town must be made a scapegoat and forced to wander in the wilderness. The question is, will that person be you?