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Mayfest Review 2010: Wondermart by Katie Day

Editors Note: This review is part of theatrebristol.net's second open Mayfest Audience Reviews Project, and the opinions contained are soley those of the author and not those of Theatre Bristol as an organisation, nor should they be attributed as such. For more information about the reviews project contact editor@theatrebristol.net

I'm in a supermarket on a Sunday afternoon, but I'm not shopping. In fact the whole point is to not buy anything, but I'm keeping that under my hat, I'm trying to look like I fit in.

Wondermart by Rotozaza is part of their series of 'autoteatro' pieces, where the audience create their own performance prompted by an audio track they are listening to on headphones.

So I'm standing outside Waitrose near Clifton, already looking much too suspicious whilst I press play on my track and listen to the commentary. Finally I'm asked to grab my key prop – a shopping trolley of course – and head inside safely disguised as a regular shopper.  The audio track is nicely produced with a clear reassuring voice that tells me what to do, and a jaunty soundtrack to accompany my journey through the store.  I'm invited to see the supermarket through new eyes. 

If I did the show again I'd choose to go to the massive Tesco out by Ikea rather than Waitrose, I think Wondermart's themes and observations would work better in Tesco's gaudy trashier aisles than in Waitrose's relatively tasteful calm.

The piece has a good rhythm to it, and each section is bookended with the instruction: “Close your eyes.  Open your eyes” followed by the sound of a till ringing “Kerching!” You're never far from a comment about how manipulative this commercial environment is. 

If you know a little about supermarkets and how they work you may find that you're already familiar with a lot of the information and statistics quoted.  These weren't really the most interesting parts for me. My favourite moments were listening to a product in my hand 'speak' to me as I held it to my ear, and following other shoppers around the store and making up stories about their lives. 

The most enjoyable thing about the show is that frisson you feel because you're in the supermarket playing a game, and no-one else around you knows this.  You get to float down the aisles detached from the business of shopping, and this succeeds in making such an ordinary, everyday place feel otherworldly and slightly dream-like.

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