At the heart of Your Nation Loves You is a very clever, very well-executed twist that is a great example of something only theatre can do, involving as it does both the location and the audience. Even though I'd suspected the twist from some time earlier, the actual revelation near the end is a fantastic moment that's genuinely exciting.¹ Unfortunately this moment is surrounded by an hour and three quarters of a desperately disappointing, hackneyed show with nothing to say and a sometimes downright perverse way of saying it.
A devised work by the group :Delirium: performed in the newly-rechristened Old Vic Tunnels (a network of railway tunnels under Waterloo,) Your Nation Loves You tells the story of 12 people abducted by the government and dumped underground to survive; supposedly the powers that be expect a global disaster to occur soon, and the 12 are being kept "safe." The possible political theme isn't explored much though, and as the audience follows the actors in this promenade production it becomes a rather meaningless story of conflict (for no apparent reason, the 12 have split into two rival groups who have little or no contact with each other.) There's a few decent performances but sadly the central actor (no programme so I don't know any names I'm afraid) is astonishingly irritating - imagine if someone someone studied Brian Blessed's acting style then said "yes, but COULD IT BE BIGGER?" And not in a good way.
The promenade arrangement also seems to have been sloppily done - usually audiences always seem to find their way after a while but here it was very hard to get into a position where you could actually see what was going on, I always seemed to be standing behind someone. In my case, this made it a lot easier for me to decide that I didn't really care since I was going to miss half of it anyway. And when I could see the action I often regretted it: Despite it having no connection to the rest of the show's style, every so often you'd get the actors going into a slo-mo movement sequence left over from drama school (and god, I was hoping it wouldn't be so soon after Henry V that I'd have to put up with that again.) It was only last night I was trying hard to suppress giggles, two nights in a row is too much to ask and once they started "erotically" rubbing watering cans up against each other I didn't care who heard me sniggering.
The twist might have made me look marginally more kindly on the play but that was spoiled when the venue added insult to injury after it finished: After nearly two hours walking around cold, dark tunnels, the audience was herded out of a different exit, into an unfamiliar street, with no toilets around. These tunnels are an amazing venue for the right play; this sadly doesn't come close to being it.
Your Nation Loves You by :Delirium: is booking until the 2nd of April at the Old Vic Tunnels.
¹however a quick look around "The Internet" reveals the twist itself is copied from another show, so the one positive point goes down the drain I'm afraid.
(2 to Eleven)