There were two joyous things about my trip to see Quiz Show at the Traverse Theatre. The first: the man sat next to me was brilliant, laughing and clapping along like he was having the best day of his life. Since the first third of Quiz Show turns the theatre audience into a live studio audience, making you feel implicit in all that is about to take place, having someone ready to go for it and lead the rest of the theatregoers in the whooping and cheering was amazing. The second: Quiz Show is the only piece of theatre I have ever seen that managed to make me jump out of my fucking skin. In a good way.
Because of that, though, trying to write about Quiz Show is really difficult because anything I write could potentially ruin what’s so amazing about Quiz Show. Very rarely have I seen a show which kept me so utterly on edge throughout, which gave me pretty much no idea of what was coming next and which haunted me for quite so long after. It’s not that it’s especially brutal to watch, because it’s not. Not really. It’s that it plays with narrative structure and jumps between genres in an unpredictable but completely watchable way. It’s that it starts out as the most ridiculous pastiche but in the process is drawing you right in to the palm of its hand. It’s that the set and lighting are appropriately and deliciously tacky. It’s that it’s making a vicious and poignant point and you don’t really realise until right at the end. It’s that it’s fucking great.
Even telling you it’s great seems wrong; I’m building expectation that you are better off without.
Drummond acknowledges he can’t do anything completely original. But he can push boundaries, which is what he’s doing this production: in terms of structure and ‘unexpected juxtapositions’. He’s also experimenting with what he creates, moving on from solo shows to ensemble pieces that didn’t involve him throwing himself around in a wrestling ring for the better part of a year. His focus is not searching for originality, but ‘honouring those who have gone before and taking their gifts and making them relevant to your situation, borrowing, adding, changing and then hopefully leaving enough for the next lot.’ It’s the Traverse’s 50th anniversary. Arguably one of the most exciting venues and producing companies in Scotland, it would be easy for them to spend this year backtracking, wheeling out old successes and shouting about all the best things they ever did. That’s not really the Trav’s style, though. They are instead supporting new(ish) artists in new(ish) endeavours and taking calculated and exciting risks. In a few years time, newer artists will look at Quiz Show, and they will borrow, add and change things, and hopefully they’ll manage to make something as exciting. It’s shows like this, coupled with audience members like the one I got to sort of share it with, that make me give such a shit about theatre. And that’s pretty fucking exciting.