The Last Quiz Night on Earth
What would you do if you were facing the last night of existence? Would you spend it at home, at work, with family or, as is the topic of tonight’s show, at your local having the Quiz night to end all quiz nights.
Box of Tricks Theatre have created a brilliantly different take on something that is all too familiar for so many of us – the pub quiz. Set in The Four Horsemen, the audience play the part of the pub regulars, all seated at small tables, equipped with our quiz answer sheets, fliers and pens. As soon as we walked into Scarth Hall it felt like a local, there was a hum of conversation, groups who already knew each other and a busyness of pulling drinks and clearing tables.
Playwright Alison Carr and Director Hannah Tyrrell-Pinder have a rather unique task at hand; Alison has had to write the play to be performed knowing the audience will be involved, while Hannah has to direct the cast & creatives but also allow for that unknown entity of the audience – for this to work well, the audience need to be engaged, active not passive, but also respect that there is still a show being performed. It is testament to all involved that it felt seamless between script and reaction, a real sense of ‘we’re in this together’.
Landlady Kathy (Meriel Scholfield) is hosting her very last night before an asteroid crashes into planet Earth and dooms everyone. Meriel is a wonderful Kathy, she is warm and engaging, a little scary (as all good pub landladies should be) and has a genuine desire to make sure everyone has a good time. She constantly interacts with the audience/pub regulars without it ever feeling false or planned.
Her quizmaster for the night is Rav (Matthew Khan) – funny, flamboyant and focussed on hosting another great quiz. Rav takes his craft very seriously so any interruption to the flow of his question & answers is particularly galling for him – not ideal when a) it’s the end of the world and b) unexpected guests keep turning up.
Bobby (Chris Hoyle) is Kathys estranged brother, long since removed from her life and yet, on this, the day of days, he decides to return and settle some old scores. Chris packs so much energy and emotion into his part that you are torn between pity, scorn and empathy throughout the night.
Finally we have Fran (Tilly Sutcliffe), a nervous 20 something who apparently Rav has already known from a previous life and who still holds a candle for him, or for the person she has believed he is.
Twists and turns continue at apace, all bound by the 5 rounds of the quiz, in which we the audience/regulars, partake. The questions are very good, a great range of topics and enough of a challenge to keep everyone engaged without it becoming too competitive. Likewise the choice of music to accompany the rounds.
As the end of the night approaches we play witness to more soul searching, more revelations and finally some reconciliation – after all, why hold a grudge, “we’re all going to die soon”.
This was the first Box of Tricks production I have seen but it most certainly won’t be the last – I was very impressed with the writing, the styling, the storytelling and of course the cast. My only disappointment is that this was the last show of the rural tour; I would have loved to have watched it again (and to have prompted more friends and family to do so too).
Performing this in Scarth Hall, Staindrop was a great choice of venue – Scarth Hall is ideal for small productions ad is ran by a group of trustees and volunteers who make your visit warm, welcoming and one you want to repeat.