Productions like Lights Over Tesco Car Park make me miss participatory theatre in these difficult times. Armed with a tub of flying saucers sweets, the quartet behind Poltergeist Theatre, together with the audience, draw on past UFO sightings to decide whether a man named Robert genuinely saw something above a Tesco car park in 2017.
Indeed, for a show about lights, Edward Sanders’ design is impressive and imaginative, illustrating Robert’s encounter in pitch black with only several handheld torches to illuminate the key details. It’s a minimalism which extends to the three historic alien encounters we hear across the play which use audience members to tell them. Static electricity from a balloon is used to demonstrate a person’s hair being on end, for example, in scenes which are startling for their simplicity. Another moment involves the company sharing their research whilst also dancing to techno beats. There’s certainly a great creative energy involved in the production.
As I watched the livestream this week, reading some of the comments as I did, it was clear that individuals called up to tell elements of the story actually have the ability to change parts of the play’s narrative (one commenter says the filmed version is a totally different show to the one they witnessed). As such, the question of whether to trust Robert’s account sort of slips to the background in between these interactive elements. At the end of Lights Over Tesco, it’s disregarded completely. A slight commentary on otherness perhaps sneaks through in its conclusion, but it doesn’t leave much in terms of meaning.
Instead, the story is more creative for how its told (writer Jack Bradfield also directs). Just before the conclusion, there is a beautiful piece of audience engagement which is mesmerising from an external perspective, but would no doubt be quite a special experience if one was there in person. As a result, I’m left wondering whether my online review is fair considering the large amount of audience interaction involved in Lights Over Tesco Car Park, but although I longed to be a part of action on-screen, I could still appreciate how it was told from afar.
Lights Over Tesco Car Park played at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August 2018. It is available to watch online via YouTube with captions until 4 May.
Production Images: Chris Page.