Review: The World We Live In (BATS Theatre)
Updated: Jun 2, 2022
It is not often that I see two shows back to back that are so similar in concept. Intervention Theatre's "The World We Live In" introduces us to a variety of annoying and troubled characters, each of whom gives us their own interpretation of the world as they see it, an idea not too dissimilar to Red Velvet Rhinoceros's "The Worst People". However, this comedy focuses more on classical caricatures, such as melodramatic suburban mothers and an outrageously camp gentleman in heels, than on millennial gripes of everyday sexism, homophobia, etc. Adoring unpleasant characters as much as I do I was eager to see how they would fill the 50 minutes.
The narrative of the show is structured with a therapist, played by Eden Smith, swigging from a bottle and introducing each character for their own short slot in the spotlight; his erstwhile patients before their intolerable natures lead him to quit his job. Reminiscent of the opening monologue to Bertolt Brecht's "The Threepenny Opera", it is a brilliant start that gives a lot of promise for the characters we are to meet and the structure that allows for a lot of creative freedom. The characters themselves are played by writer and director Grahame Woods, producer Adam Scott, and Reece Radcliffe, all of whom are brimming with energy and confidence throughout. The female characters are performed in (impressively detailed) cross-dress, and those performances are exaggerated enough to exceed realism without being so outrageous that it feels like drag. Woods's cringingly posh Magnolia was very well realised, as a crowd favourite she is clearly a character that could be used again in some capacity. Radcliffe's "gayest man on the planet" also proved a highlight, as a hilarious embodiment of every aspect of the camp stereotype that we can laugh at and with.
The writing and directing also show Woods's talent and highlight the performances. When the show takes a more sombre turn in the form of Scott's Southland football enthusiast, the atmosphere transitions perfectly into what is the most moving monologue I have seen during the Fringe. Scott underplays his character's fragility and denial while maintaining the weight of his tragic story.
Unfortunately though, the show falls short of its promise to provide truly unbearable characters. Though that is rarely a complaint, it was a slight disappointment in this case. This is due in part to Woods's reserved writing, which could have done with adding a little more variety in the villainy of the characters. It is an impression not helped by the inherent likeability of the performers. Woods's teacher role is the prime example of this; he is well performed with a sense of authority, and in any other play he certainly would have been a strong enough antagonist, but when the expectations are set as high as they were I found myself questioning what was meant to be so bad about him? Surely there are worse teachers in the world than this? It may be that the concept was approached with a safe hand when a slightly riskier one may have created a bit more consistency and allowed the show to reach its full potential. "The World We Live In" may not be the show that Intervention Theatre set out to create, but the performances and narrative structure mean it is definitely worth seeing nonetheless. Four stars.