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Reality TV makes the jump from our screens to the stage in Losers. A production by company Tit4Twat Theatre at East London’s The Rag Factory, it follows four reality TV rejects desperate to do whatever it takes to become famous. And, although it doesn’t always have the winning formula, there’s still enough laughs and surprises to make it worth staying tuned in for the whole 60 minutes.
At the beginning of those minutes we’re told that our four performers – Arthur Jones, Rachel Johnson, Sophie Thompson and Will Barratt – are reality TV wannabes who can’t seem to get a (TV) break. Determined to get their 15 minutes of fame, they’ve had a rather entrepreneurial idea (what a shame they never tried out for Dragon’s Den). They’re fed up of being rejected from the auditions of their favourite TV shows so the team have decided to create their own reality game show to “highlight” their talents to the industry, and finally get the big break (they think) they all deserve.
Which, as with any “good” reality show, is where us audience folk come in. Given an electronic handset with buttons on, we’re told to vote for one of the group depending on their performance during each themed round. Who had the most convincing sob story? Who deserves to shine more, the person who has slept with the least people or the person who has slept with the most? Who has the best body? Each short round offers up a different question and a chance for our hopefuls to prove their worth on, from which we then scurry to our handsets to vote.
Of course it wouldn’t be reality TV without consequences, and for our performers these take the appearance of increasingly ramped up forfeits for the person with the lowest percentage of votes scored each round to take. Perhaps the fact that Losers was created from the four actors’ University of Warwick dissertation performance explains why the forfeits have a slight “University Sports Club Initiation” feel rather than the “16 plus” punishments promised. These penalties may be a little childish but they do still help create an ethical quandary that would have been interesting to have seen developed even further. As the performers are receiving the forfeit along with their characters, it’s real people in front of us that we’re punishing, not just two dimensional personalities, which can make pushing the button that extra bit difficult.
This is where Losers shines – examining how much harsher we judge people on our TV screens and how we can often forget that even the most moronic contestant is still a real human being, and exploring them through our own audience actions. It’s not quite the thought-provoking Black Mirror episode it thinks it is – one or two rounds feel tacked on and the satire isn’t as sharp as Charlie Brooker’s biting script. However, with a higher budget and more direction, this unique snapshot of our judgemental age would certainly get my vote.