Castaway's Creative Transitions core group members went to view a performance of Unit 21 by Darkhorse theatre back in March 2023 and collectively wrote the following review (transcribed from a group review conversation):
Group Review of #Unit 21 by Dark Horse
Junction Goole, Thursday 16th March
Anna: So what's Squid games?
John: It's a Netflix series.
Anna: It reminds you of that?
Anna: What does
Brandon: The numbers Yeah, on the shirts.
John: Yeah, the numbers and the beginning.
Anna: Ah okay, and the kind of visuals?
Anna: So what did you think of the show overall? Okay.
Brandon: It was ok
Anna: What did you enjoy about it?
Anna: Yeah. Any particular things you remember? It's been a while now
John: I thought it was a nice show they put on. Yeah, it's obviously showing you an example of what it's like to become an adult.
Anna: Yeah, that kind of coming of age.
John: Especially for the drinking
Alison: Do you think you could relate to it then?
Brandon: Yeah yeah.
John: Yeah we can relate. Because we could become adults any minute now. We technically are now.
Anna: Yeah, and we're kind of exploring similar themes (in Creative Transitions) now of, you know, becoming an adult and the choices that you're making and things like that. So, similar themes, Okay. What did you think, Tally?
Tally: I thought that becoming an adult is your life lifestyle. So I want to grow up more and be myself.
Anna: Yeah, nice and did that. Did it make you think of those sorts of things when you watched the show?
Anna: Tom, what did you think?
Tom: Yeah, I really enjoyed it. I thought it was quite obscure in parts but I enjoyed the way that they framed that in a message and story. The set was pretty, was really impressive. And I liked the way they, most of the narrative was told by a pre-recorded voice so I felt like it helped support the actors, who were great. It felt like the real life acting in it, was very physical and it felt like it played to the strengths of the actors. Yeah it was good to watch, it was great to watch the story unfold.
Anna: Yeah, it looks like they've used different art forms, again a bit like what we've been doing -projection, physical theatre like dance and then audio recording. What about things, has that jogged anymore memories, things that you liked, that stood out?
John: They put in some funny bits. You know, to make us laugh
Brandon: They also did sort of like a background where it’s just mouth, or just speaks
Anna: Yeah, that’s a strong visual, isn't it?
Alison: Yeah. Quite abstract, yeah. I think they used the humour in it well, to make it a bit more relatable. Yeah like Tom said, a lot of it was quite obscure but it did make me think a lot about what the content was about
John: Yeah, a human prison
Alison: Yeah and the humour filtered that through a little bit.
Anna: Ah right. Yeah. So are you saying it was kind of hard hitting at times but the humour helped?
Anna: Because you (John) said something about a human prison?
John: Yeah because the enemy on the screen, on the background, it was like keeping them trapped in that one place and they wanted to go out and become an adult.
Anna: Yeah, they wanted their freedom, they wanted to earn their keep.
Tom: They stripped their names of this person and they were given numbers, right? It's quite an extreme metaphor for how people may or may not feel in terms of adulthood, but maybe if you’re in in a care home, you may not feel like you’re truly an adult, or truly independent if you’ve got this disembodied voice telling you what to do and watching you all the time. It was quite hard hitting but I liked it and it was done in a very extremist way I felt.
Alison: It was hard hitting, as it related to the disability side of it. Because obviously it's not a regular path of growing up. So, you know, like your everyday, typical person. Yeah, so it kind of related it from of a person with disabilities, how they might feel and show those emotions and how they might react to those emotions. I also felt it was a bit like The Wizard of Oz
Anna: Yeah, the disembodied voice
Alison: Yeah, the voices overhead. Almost like envisaging that person. I mean I don’t know whether that person was maybe like giving her, like your conscience
Anna: So yeah. It's left to interpretation, isn't it?
Tom: Yeah, but definitely follows the Wizard of Oz theme though. The first part of the show was about them going out partying. And then the girl drinks too much and it’s like she passes out and when she passes out this whole kind of post of apocalyptic prison, is the kind of like takes place and in the end she wakes up and it was all her dreams. It was very, in terms of Wizard of Oz, it follows that structure.
Alison: I think it says something like that too like “ And it was all a dream”
Tom: Yeah, yeah. It knows it follows that trope. It’s not trying to be clever about it. That’s the formula they chose to go with.
Anna: What didn’t you like about it? And it could just be personal choice. You know for me, like, you know, the minimalist, and starkness of it, doesn't immediately appeal to me, but I don't know because I didn't see it.
Alison: I think it made me feel a little bit uncomfortable. I think because I watched it with students and people you know coming of age. It didn’t make me feel uncomfortable, but it did make me feel uncomfortable for them.
Anna: Because you wanting to nurture and support people and that feels a bit raw.
Alison: I think it was the teacher side coming out. And the Mum side of it. Kind of putting myself in their shoes.
Tally: It made me uncomfortable when I was sat at home. It made me uncomfortable when I was sitting at home and getting all nervous.
Alison: Because you were thinking about it afterwards.
Anna: Ah yeah, you were thinking about afterwards, it kind of stayed with you. I can understand that.
Tom: There were definitely some bits, visual and audio wise and lighting wise that were quite harsh at some points. But I guess that was the point. To make you feel uncomfortable. For me, I really enjoyed it but I felt like there was a lot of repetition in it. Which I get the theme of repeating the same ideas. But for me personally, I felt it did it a little too much. They could have done something different. And I know you said you didn’t see it (Anna) But there wasn’t much variation in it once it got to the main, middle bit of it.
Alison: Is that because the ethos of the actual group though, like you know, the fact that it’s a Downs Syndrome group and Downs Syndrome learners are typically rote learners. So the repetition, kind of like relaying that message.
Tom: There was definitely parts, like the making of the tea, they kept doing it over and over again, like I got that. But it felt like every scene was similar. There were different elements I don’t know what it is, maybe visually, with the set and the costumes. I think it worked overall but a little too repetitive.
Brandon: What I didn’t get was at the beginning they said if you’ve got a phone, scan the QR code and you might go into it. But that didn’t happen though
Anna: Ah so maybe they had technical problems, or they didn’t explain?
Brandon: You got onto the website but then they was like saying if people put their name in, they’ll probably go onto the stage.
Anna: Oh, but no one did?
Tom: It was like interactive. When they got asked questions onstage, or like when they were making decisions, you could answer on your phone.
Anna: It sounds like the tech thing either didn’t happen, or wasn’t accessible
Alison: It was supposed to be audience participation
Tom: I came in the show a little bit late. I got this (program) but I didn’t read it, and then half way through I realised people were on their phones so I joined in after the interval. Yeah, I thought it was quite interesting.
Alison: Because we were with school we didn’t have tech with us
Brandon: The teachers had theirs so they were able to
Alison: So it would have been good to have that information before hand so we could have been prepared.
Tom: Or maybe it could have been said as part of the show, everyone take your phones out, don’t forget to do it. So they would have been able to set it up.
Anna: Of course it relies on people having a smart phone which then, you know, people who don't are excluded a bit aren't they?
Alison: It wouldn’t have been intentional
Tom: It was like a bonus feature really. It didn’t affect the show.
There was quite a good like marketing opportunity was, when they got out for the birthday thing, they came to the middle of the stage, posed and said, ‘come on then, take a picture’. And then asked people to put it on social media and hashtag it and things. So I thought that was pretty cool.