As recent news has shown, the stereotype that teenagers and young adults aren't engaged in politics is completely inaccurate. R.E.S.I.S.T. was created by the Pegasus Young Company in response to the prompt 'Carnival of resistance: Art in times of unrest'; a piece of theatre exploring the power of words, secret meetings, and the choice between speaking up or staying safe in the crowd.
We were welcomed into the Pullman Theatre with the announcement that 'the meeting' was about to begin, and given wristbands, each with an individual number - I was Number 136. I found a seat in the theatre space, which turned out to be between two of the actors, one of whom quickly engaged me in conversation about how wonderful the group's aims were, and how much we were going to achieve at this very important meeting.
So far, so sinister. As the play got underway, the tension of the initial setup soon escalated. The text focused on the best ways to market Solution 150, an idea guaranteed to solve the problem of pollution, overpopulation and scarce resources in this dystopian future version of Oxford; the subtext slowly revealed that the characters, despite dressing it up in attractive corporatespeak, were talking about genocide.
There was some excellent acting from the young cast, with a standout performance from Number One, who strutted around the space like a cross between Cruella De Vil and Ivanka Trump and gave speeches that made her murderous ideas seem oh-so-palatable. The first half of the play was a biting satire in the spirit of Inside Number 9 or Black Mirror, demonstrating just how easily the seeds of radicalisation can be planted, and how totalitarian groups twist the narrative to portray some people as 'other', less than human, and dispensable.
The second half moved from the meeting to the 'live feed' of the planned genocide, set in a burger bar and with previous members of the 150 playing 'the others'. For me, this was the weaker part of the play. The first half was a strong, self-contained story, and while I understood why the Company wanted to explore more of the horrific world they had created (and chuckled at the 'Big Ol' Bag of Pigeon' that featured prominently on the menu board), I felt that this section went on for too long and dispelled the tension created in part one.
Overall, however, R.E.S.I.S.T. was a thought-provoking and engaging play, which was by turns chilling and funny. The cast's performances were strong, and the audience interaction was surprisingly fun to join in with (this is coming from someone who made it to one session of a drama course before quitting due to overwhelming awkwardness). The Pegasus Young Company are a talented group, and I look forward to seeing what they produce in the future.