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The Sovereign Statement at the Neo-Futurists: Theater review

Bilal Dardai conscripts the audience in the formation of a new nation in the Neo-Futurists' dissection of democracy

1/5
Photograph: Maggie Fullilove-Nugent

Bilal Dardai in The Sovereign Statement at the Neo-Futurists

2/5
Photograph: Maggie Fullilove-Nugent

Phil Ridarelli and Mike Manship in The Sovereign Statement at the Neo-Futurists

3/5
Photograph: Maggie Fullilove-Nugent

Gwynn V. Fulcher in The Sovereign Statement at the Neo-Futurists

4/5
Photograph: Maggie Fullilove-Nugent

Gwynn V. Fulcher, Phil Ridarelli and Jen Ellison in The Sovereign Statement at the Neo-Futurists

5/5
Photograph: Maggie Fullilove-Nugent

Gwynn V. Fulcher and Jen Ellison in The Sovereign Statement at the Neo-Futurists

Bilal Dardai takes his transnational identity—he’s from America, of Pakistan (or is it the other way around?)—as inspiration for this contemplation of the narratives behind nation-building. In classic Neo-Futurist style, the audience plays along: After the hilariously charming Phil Ridarelli is appointed Protagonist of the Play and Leader of our newly named Nation (NeoVakia), I am appointed official Secretary of the Back Row, charged with creating our nation’s motto. We show our papers, sing a national anthem, and vote for various, increasingly trivial matters.

It’s smart stuff, and fun to watch as Ridarelli devolves into Pere Ubu in this Pirandello-like take on theatrical politics and the politics of theater (when one character complains of his passivity, our leader reminds him: "I can't do anything about it—you're written that way!"). A Fourth Wall is erected to separate one half of the audience from the other and actor Mike Manship reflects on Glasnost, before we move to join the other exiled nationals backstage. The second half of this feels a bit in need of editing; by the time we reconvene—our nation abruptly dissolved—Dardai’s point about the farce of democratic processes has been made.

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