It's not often you get money back on your theatre tickets depending on how much you contributed as an audience member.
But innovative theatre company fanSHEN is offering punters just that. For their new production, Cheese, they've joined forces with local gyms and community centres around London, installing customized exercise machines which will charge huge batteries used to power the show. Audiences members can get equivalent money off their ticket price if they are prepared to put in the legwork to generate some of the electricity the show needs.
It's all part of fanSHEN's commitment to making "greener" theatre. But it nods to some of the themes in their latest production too.
Cheese, written by Nikki Schreiber, is an allegorical take on the financial crisis.
As fanSHEN Creative Director Rachel Briscoe explains, "Since 2008, we’ve seen this narrative of the demon banker emerge. Sure, there were some people working in the financial services industry who took some seriously irresponsible decisions but if we only focus on these scapegoats, we’re at risk of missing the bigger picture. It’s this which Cheese explores: what was the environment that cultivated this sort of behavior?"
The show features an ordinary well-off couple, Joe and Freya, who seem have it all: the job, the car, the house made of Emmental in an up-and-coming part of town. They're more or less living the dream. Then suddenly, without explanation, the cheese runs out. Someone seems to have changed the rules overnight. Joe sets off to investigate, finding a labyrinth of cheese holes; unexpected laboratories, factories, casinos - and some worrying clues that he had more to do with the cheese disappearance than he originally thought.
According to Briscoe, "Cheese is a very non-judgmental play. Cheese isn’t [about] banker-bashing, it’s much more morally complex than that – which is a great challenge as directors and an exciting provocation to make to audiences."