Produced by the Karavan Ensemble & Silvia Mercuriali
Italy / Portugal / UK, 90mins

Voila! Europe Festival, London | November 19-21, 2020

Nick Awde | THE X REPORT

You can’t go wrong with bingo, and this remote extravaganza from Yael Karavan and Silvia Mercuriali proves it. Piling on the magical allure of the numbers, Zoom, audience participation, avant garde mayhem and the thrill of a full house, the duo revel in the hit and miss of remote-coordinating Bingo! and, gloriously, no show can ever be the same.

Remote isn’t a new concept for the game: there are towns where the balls are called in one location and relayed to multiple halls – to the grumbles about that from many players. But no such criticism here where bingo goes literally into another dimension.

The twist is this is also a gameshow about humans rights, where the challenge is to guess the number of the article from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that corresponds to each ball drawn by the besequinned Ball Spinner. Cue clock ticking, wrong answer buzzer, canned applause, sonorous announcers, cheesy music. Cue too acted or illustrated scenarios that offer a big hint while everyone scans their cards to cross off another number.

Bubbly and glitzy, Karavan and Mercuriali bob in and out of frame as they induct, cajole and encourage the players. There’s sparks of rivalry between the two as they take turns to marshal us from task to task, reeling off chat messages of encouragement to volunteers in between quick change routines.

Performed in English peppered with Italian, French and Portuguese in between audio clips of milestones such as the UN and Martin Luther King, it’s a bit all over the place to begin with but the audience swiftly gets the hang of it and threatens to takes over the game.

In fact, as the hosts happily point out, the show doesn’t work without the audience and there’s certainly something interesting going on with the blend of improv, guaranteed audience participation, truly remote theatre – and the serious, often grim issues can’t manifest unless everyone’s having fun.

Observations on Zoom staging constitute part of any self-respecting review for 2020, and Bingo! scores highly. Basics like lighting, backdrop and greenscreen are intelligently thought out with the viewer in mind, and camera perspective is not just for the set but also action around the edges of the screen designed to be slickly DIY.

Structurally, I’m less convinced by the start-up process where Karavan and Mercuriali prep each audience member in a breakout room before virtually handing them their bingo card. Watching a ‘The Show will be starting SOON’ sign for a quarter of an hour after the show’s start veers close to test card territory. But clearly that’s something they’ll rethink as they go – and that moment of personal contact admittedly added to the experience.

Undeterred, the show sped by to an unexpectedly touching finale. The audience included families with kids who got into Bingo! with the same enthusiasm as the adults – proof, should you ever need it, that issues-based experimental theatre in the right hands will appeal across the board.

• Facebook: Yael Karavan & Silvia Mercuriali