It is rather exciting entering a theatre one is very familiar with only to see it transformed before ones eyes with pots, pans, suitcases and blankets strewn across the foyer and all the way into the bar. Upon entering the auditorium audience members are sat throughout the traditional seating and some have been placed on stage. Banners declaring that ‘no knives over 3 inches’ may be carried and ladders leading between the circle and the stalls give you a theatre in its most un-glamorous state. You get a sense very quickly of where you are being transported to by the creative team. In this case, present day becomes 1948. The Lyceum becomes a theatre in Germany; and the audience become displaced persons from across a post-war Europe in this well executed site specific production of Cockpit.
We are introduced to our characters one by one. A French farmer who just wants to go back home, a young Jewish Pole clutching desperately to her newborn and two tense British Soldiers attempting to keep total chaos and panic at bay. A high tension piece which could potentially become a little repetitive and boring is broken up by the charm of the eccentric Stage Manager (Dylan Read) and a beautiful moment of calm within chaos as Sandra Kassman enchants us with her rendition of La Traviata. In a post-war Europe we hear the voices of many nationalities, religions and political standings fighting against each other yet we understand they desperately just want to return home to a country they loved. The characters are all far too aware that the face of Europe has indeed changed forever, potentially, even now the camps have been closed, putting their lives at risk.
It feels as if something is missing. We enter an auditorium as an audience, but throughout the piece we are half-heartedly included in the social and political crises’ happening throughout the show, such as when we are gestured to and told that everyone sitting in the stage right stalls are Latvian and Lithuanian, for example. Adding that onto sitting audience members on stage and the actors running in and out of the auditorium doors and across the upper circle it comes across as a half baked attempt at immersion when in reality at no point was I ever taken out of my comfort zone as an audience member. I never fully engage with the idea that I am supposedly anything more than an a modern day theatre goer. The plot twist of a potential case of the bubonic plague which calls for all the ‘doors to be locked’ so that no one can leave the theatre almost makes me feel that I was becoming part of this collective of refugees and that I could loose my autonomy as an audience member. This announcement is promptly followed by a blackout and an ushering by front of house to purchase drinks, which completely kills any inclination I have towards being fully immersed in this performance. - Lucy Newbery