How We Vote in We This Way

Seth Kriebal’s We This Way is one of the most addictive shows I have seen. You walk into the audience and Kriebal greets you at the door, handing you a blue and an orange light stick. A selected few get an additional two light sticks – red and green. The audience settles down and Kriebal explains the rules of the show. From the beginning, we are encouraged to talk and discuss amongst ourselves. Kriebal will tell a story and as it reaches a certain point, he will give us two choices – blue for choice A and orange for choice B – and the audience will raise their light sticks voting in favour of how they want the story to continue, not too dissimilar from the Choose Your Own Adventure game books that ran from the late 70s to the 90s.

The choice with the most votes gets chosen and the narrative continues. We reach another point, and we are faced with another choice, and so on so forth. Again, not too dissimilar from the 2013’s Edinburgh fringe show The Dark Room, which also sport the same concept, but with individuals controlling the narrative instead of an entire audience.

The world in We This Way is fantastic, and is filled with a bouncy castle, a minotaur, a mirror-room, and a giant treasure buried deep somewhere in/near the sea, just to name a few. Throughout the 60-minute run, I was intrigued to see how people exercised their ability to vote. This is what I got from only one viewing, which is definitely not definitive (but still interesting!).

Very early on in the process, the audience’s votes were daring. When presented with two choices like “a door with cobwebs and a sign that says ‘GO AWAY!’” and “a normal looking door with boings coming from inside”, audiences unequivocally choose the one with cobwebs. When presented with a choice between “turn the electrical switch and risk many things” and “walk away from the switch to somewhere else”, the audience chose the option with the switch.

Yet, as the process continued, and as we die countless times, the choices became more conservative. Instead of going down the dangerous paths to see where the many other alternate choices might have led us, audiences instead chose the “safer” route, in the hope that they might finally make it to the end of the story.

Whether we will make it to the end of the story or not, I do not know. But what interested me – and intrigued me – is that it highlighted a way at looking at how we vote in elections. We might start off as liberal but then move slowly to become more conservative. Just think of the youthful revolutions of the sixties only got replaced by conservatism in the eighties. Do people become more conservative as they grow older?

Halfway through the show, the choice is restricted to the selected few, as they were given the choice of making the decision for the entirety of the audience. Democracy for the selected few. People started whispering at those with the power, urging them to choose what everyone “thinks” should be chosen. Stressful? No doubt. They died really quickly (they chose to jump on a bouncy castle instead of looking at a shoe rack). Two very interesting things happened though. When it first happened, and when people realised that they didn’t have the power to vote because they didn’t have the right light sticks, people did not vote. Yet, after two choices, some people started voting, despite the fact that they were choosing with different coloured light sticks, clearly wanting to get their voices heard (how so, nobody knows). The other very interesting thing that happened was immediately after the round ended, and when everyone else could vote again, everyone went down the exact same route and chose the other option (shoe rack), as if to say that you shouldn’t have voted this way and we know better. Did they know better? I won’t say.

What I will say though, is that the show made me think very hard about the idea of democracy, on whether the people who shouted the loudest get heard, and on whether the system will still continue if we had not voted. Spoiler alert: the show will still continue.

– Mao

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