Choose Your Own Documentary**** (Soho Theatre, 8 February 2014)

Posted: February 9, 2014 in Theatre

We all reach crossroads in our lives when, like Gwyneth Paltrow boarding a tube train, we make one choice and then are left wondering what might have been if we had made another. This show, co-created and performed by Nathan Penlington draws on such experiences. The starting point is an apparently well-known series of Choose Your Own Adventure books for children by the American writer Edward Packard; in common with almost half the audience, I had never previously heard of them. The books provided readers with choices at regular intervals and the adventures then followed the courses that the readers had chosen. At this show, the audience is provided with key pads to vote, with the filmed documentary taking the courses selected by the majority. Penlington embarks on three (possibly more or less at some shows) missions: to find an unknown diarist with whom he has become obsessed, a lost childhood sweetheart and Mr Packard himself. We are told that there are 1,566 possible stories and over 30 different characters to be discovered. The stories are all true and all the possible outcomes have been pre-filmed. As the conclusions to different shows should rarely be the same, there is little risk of giving out spoilers by saying that, on this occasion, Penlington was left barely alive and near naked, handing out flyers to the departing audience. If the concept has flaws, it is carried by the presenter’s geniality.  Apart from being great fun, the show is given substance through being underpinned by wistful reflections on wrong decisions and lost opportunities. Original and entertaining.

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