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This summer marks the 16th season (?!) of Big Brother. The hit reality TV show follows contestants or ‘housemates’ during their time in an undisclosed London location dubbed ‘The Big Brother House.’ Living out their daily lives for our viewing pleasure, household names such as Brian Dowling, Nikki Grahame and Jade Goody, entertained, repulsed and bored us. Since its first season in 2000, the shows endless spin-offs include Big Brothers Little Brother, Big Brothers Big Mouth and now… ‘Big Smother.’

A new Ovalhouse commission, ‘Big Smother’ by HighRise Theatre, presented in-development, questions what happens when reality TV is not a choice. When reality TV becomes a government requirement, a ten-year free TV license motivates contestants and members of the public to appear on GOV1 24/7. How will you react to an immersive game of judgment in the public eye? If you’re not someone who would electively choose to sit in the first, second or even fifth row of a theatre for fear of audience participation then Big Smother will prove challenging and uncomfortable experience. Presented in game show format, Big Smother takes its audience as its contestants, providing free bucks fizz to loosen more tentative attendees before the games begin. Promptly throwing group challenges and hurdles into the mix, producers are selected at random from the audience before the show commences, orchestrating obstacles and pitting contestants against each other. With cameras recording you from ‘inside the house’, it is interesting to see how eager the public can be to present and perform.

Blak and white surveillance camera

‘Big Smother’, a human research project, manipulates your better judgment as you ‘play along’, in this audience orientated performance. Each performance will see a new cast enter the house, and the success or failure of the show rests on how entertaining or impulsive your fellow housemates are. This dynamic new work, still in development, would benefit from a more polished set to add to the believability of the production, but the shows core function is one of activation, challenging immersive theatre by bringing reality TV to the stage.