Operation Black Antler

There was a moment in Operation Black Antler (from Blast Theory/Hydrocracker and HOME) where I and one of my undercover team finally get an introduction to one of the key people in the operation we are trying to infiltrate.  It’s been hard work persuading our contact to believe that we are sufficiently committed to their right wing cause.  We have played two different strategies, the ‘yes I’m right wing’ and the ‘I’m not sure about this’ but finally we are there with someone who matters.  She looks me in the eye and asks me whether I am committed to the cause.  For a couple of seconds I am genuinely scared by her look.   Perhaps the assembled partygoers will turn on me and beat me up.  This is what I have come for.  The feeling that anything can happen.

Operation Black Antler is an immersive theatre performance where the audience go under cover to try to find out more about a group that is already under surveillance.  We meet in a disused office to plan our operation.  Then we walk to a local pub to attend a fundraising event which is a screen for a right wing operation.  Who do we choose to talk to?  Who can we trust?  Where do we find our target?  What do we have to do to gain their trust?  What are we prepared to say and do?

Do you want to watch your theatre or do you want to be immersed in an alternative life?  Do you want to stand on the sidelines or do you want to drive forward the narrative of the performance?  Will you play pool, darts, buy someone a drink?  Are you prepared to engage in conversations with people who you do not know, in the hope of gaining information?  It’s a game.  Play it.

There is no question that Operation Black Antler is the sort of performance where you get out exactly what you put in.  Sit on the sidelines and watch by all means but don’t expect to come away with a memory.  Get involved, take a chance, talk to people and try to elucidate key information and you’ll start to understand what people go through when they go under cover.  That’s what it’s about.  Understand the emotional consequences of being someone you’re not.  Question the decisions we as a society make in how we monitor extremist groups.

Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

One Response to “Operation Black Antler”

  1. clegg says:

    I attended on Thursday night and came away inspired and a little bit reflective of my own narrative whilst engaging with our POI. As a theatre director myself I am hard to please but I came away incredibly impressed . Chatting to the AD of Blast Theory in the safety of HOME afterwards the reality of undercover policing was much more visceral after this incredibly immersive experience. Many companies use the word ‘immersive’ too easily as it is on trend at the moment but this collaboration is completely authentic and the actors were impressive. Just go and dont sit on the side lines. Get involved and with your external eye ‘watch yourself’, its very illuminating. 5 stars.

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