Then people who offended or said or did things deemed unacceptable were put in the stocks. Now they are subject to social media pile-ons and Twitter cancellations.
Jon Ronson has written well about this modern version of mortification in his 2015 book, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed and now the international company Secret Theatre Project attempt to harness both the mob mentality and the fear of the offender in Redemption Room, which describes itself as “an immersive, online thriller experience.”
It is conceivable that the Trades Description Act could be applied to the words “immersive” and “thriller” in that sentence. It is neither, although it might be described as schlocky, silly fun that attempts to walk a tight rope between comedy and horror. It clearly has Black Mirror aspirations but little of the wit and intelligence that show demonstrates at its best.
The set-up is this: introduced by our host Rex Shakespeare — a man who deserves to be shamed for crimes against fashion — six disgraced celebrities, played by actors from around the world, are placed in front of an on-line audience who get to decide whether or not they deserve redemption. There’s the disgraced ex-cabinet minister who loves hunting, the former Olympic winning gymnast who was outed as a cheat, the social media influencer photoshopped dancing on the grave of Donald Trump, the comic who told a joke so unacceptable he was forced from the comedy circuit, and so on.
It’s a potentially promising scenario, but there is minimal story development, very little real audience interaction, no moral dilemma, no nuance, and the celebrities are so thinly characterised and obnoxious that it’s impossible to care what happens to them even when the scenario turns darker and they each find themselves confronting their worst fears. The Shining, it's not. But the chat function is used cleverly.
With lashings of alcohol and experienced with a group of friends, I guess this might just about have sufficient adrenaline for some to offer a break from the monotony of lockdown. But the piece wears its weirdness too obviously and doesn’t have the craft or the technological knowhow to ensure its horror pretensions have genuine impact. I cowered like a wet sock but more from boredom than fear.
You can stream Redemption Room until Sat 13 March. tickets here.