When expecting to see a play about America’s most infamous detention centre, I was astonished to find myself in a deck chair with a complimentary Cuba Libre.
Set in a future in which the site of Guantanamo Bay has become a luxury holiday destination, 2Mapgpies Theatre’s production Last Resort is a disarmingly playful piece of immersive theatre. Driven by Anna Westlake and Ben Gilbert’s unnervingly energetic holiday reps, the piece fluctuates aggressively between poolside and prison cell, both disorientating and delighting its audience. The oscillating tone of the show requires great skill on behalf of its two performers. On this score, both Westlake and Gilbert excelled, with neither afraid to include and interact with audience contributions, however leftfield. They managed to steer the show in a way that did not feel restrictive, a deceptively challenging task, given the show’s short running time.
Throughout the hour-long experience, Westlake and Gilbert cycle through every holiday activity imaginable, all with an unpleasant Guantanamo-inspired twist. A particularly memorable moment is when a spa treatment mutates into a waterboarding simulation.
And whilst there are moments in which this balance of hilarity and horror is a triumph – never have I seen an audience get so invested in bingo, particularly when punctuated by hard-hitting statistics about incarceration laws and security measures – there are also moments where it misses the mark.
When watching a piece of political theatre, I always ask myself the same question: is the piece trying to challenge its audience’s opinion? Perhaps it’s just me, and my liberal lifestyle, but locking someone up for an indeterminate amount of time without a trial isn’t a very good thing. And, given the literal vote the audience are asked to make half way through the show, the entire audience in the York Theatre Royal studio agreed. Given this fact, it seemed bizarre, even self-satisfying, to sit through a further twenty-five minutes of explanation as to why we were right. Evidently, there are people who do believe that there is a reason for Guantanamo Bay to be open, given the fact that it still actively holds 44 prisoners. However, I never felt that Last Resort ever really asked why. I felt many things during the performance: entertained, interested, surprised but never really challenged.