Some plays grab the crowd’s attention with cool effects and good music; others achieve the same goal by inviting audience members on stage to act out various circus animals. Exit 2nd Banana employs the latter technique and, while unorthodox, succeeds in providing loads of laughs and proving that even an average audience member can get over her stage fright with a little motivation and a lot of good humor.
Exit 2nd Banana is a murder mystery set in a circus in Shanghai during the 1920’s. Its tagline is “Come Meet the Unusual Suspects”—and what an unusual group of suspects they are! We were there for the opening night, and while we don’t want to give too much away, it’s safe to say that you should be prepared to see plenty of cross-dressing, fortune-telling, and over-the-top shenanigans worthy of comparison with the slap-stick greats.
The bearded lady flamboyantly displays her feminine side
What really sets this play apart, though, is its emphasis on audience interaction. Audience members can expect to sing with the cast, cheer on mock circus acts, and act out small roles on stage. In fact, they even get to decide who dies in the play. Think about that for a second. The play has eight possible endings, and which one is played out is entirely dependent upon audience reactions. We were only able to see one of these endings on opening night, but we had so much fun that we’re just itching to go again and see the others.
David Foote, the director and co-author of the play, told us that he enjoys working with this level of interaction. “I like aspects of theater that makes it unique, and one of those is the danger aspect,” he said. “Many people say that they don’t go to theater because they’re afraid that people will ask them to do something. But we’re like, we already got you, and so we’re going to do that. Like the woman from the audience who played a lion today, she couldn’t keep a straight face. It makes it so much funnier.”
One Siamese twin pies her sister in the face. Classic.
Needless to say, Exit 2nd Banana is a play that you should go into with an open mind and a willingness to interact with the cast. That’s not to say the rest of the play isn’t great—the cast chemistry is superb, and the over-the-top banter between characters like the “bearded lady” and a pair of Siamese twins is a downright riot—but it's the way that the cast is able to work seamlessly with the audience and each other that makes Exit 2nd Banana truly special.
“It’s exciting. We don’t ever know what’s going to happen. Some plays you know so well, but we’re always like, what are we going to do next?” said Amanda Daniels, an actress in the play. And from the way that audience was laughing and eagerly awaiting each new scene during the play’s opening night, it’s clear that they felt the same way.
Exit 2nd Banana runs from 14th-17th & 20th-23rd of June at Strictly Designers United, Building 3 upstairs, 601 Wai Ma Lu, near Mao Jia Yuan Lu, 外马路601 号3栋 , 近毛家园路
WORDS: ANDREW WEN
PICTURES: SARAH MARTINDALE