The right night for Fight Night

The Cultch presented Fight Night by Belgian company Ontroerend Goed.

Belgians, including Angelo Tijssens, who is the referee/host of Fight Night, are a lot more fun than they look.

They were manipulating the hell out of me and I loved itIn Fight Night, which is produced by a bunch of companies led by Belgium’s Ontroerend Goed, politics becomes a literal game. Five actors vie for audience members’ votes and everybody in the crowd gets a little keypad that allows us to register our preferences in four elimination rounds.

Here’s the thing: as in Donald Trump’s presidential bid, none of the campaigns are based on policy. As in the Brexit referendum, the outcome could very well defy logic.
Mostly, the campaigns are based on likeability, on the ephemeral quality that we identify as trustworthiness. When we first meet them, the players are all wearing boxers’ robes; the set, like that on TV’s The Voice, is designed to look like a boxing ring. Wearing his robe, a contestant named Michai looked scruffy and I interpreted his gestures as defiant. But, when he doffed the robe, he was wearing a stylin’ cardigan that made me like him and see him as edgy. Taking advantage of that spin, he soon declared himself an underdog.

And here’s the question that I found the most intriguing: how much did our responses count? How many times were our votes real? They seemed to be real at least some of the time. On opening night, a huge portion of the audience came from Magee Secondary School, and the presence of those young folks registered in the audience’s answers to questions about age and income. But was asking those real questions a strategy for softening us up, for making fake outcomes later on feel more credible? Every time that I changed my allegiance in the voting, I could see how I had been maneuvered into doing so: a player would say something outrageous and lose my support, for instance.

The dramatic arc definitely feels scripted. But how scripted is it? Is there a different winner every night? I considered asking folks in the know what was real and what was fake, but I decided to sit with my questions because that’s more fun. I loved the sense that I was being playfully fucked with because I feel I feel like I’m being fucked with all the time—usually not so playfully. In this age of persuasion, in which information and entertainment have merged and trustworthy authority has all but disappeared, it’s a pleasure to be so skillfully reminded of my duty to stay alert.

Tonight (Wednesday, October 19) a special edition of Fight Night will incorporate the US presidential debate in a pre-show debate party in the lobby. How perfect is that?

 FIGHT NIGHT Text by Alexander Devriendt, Angelo Tijssens, and the cast. Directed by Alexander Devriendt. Produced by Ontroerend Goed, Border Project Australia, Theatre Royal Plymouth, Richard Jordan Productions, and Vooruit in association with Adelaide Festival of the Arts. Presented by The Cultch. At the Cultch’s Historic Theatre on Tuesday, October 18. Continues until October 29.

I recommend this show. Buy your tickets at or by phoning the box office at 604-251-1363.

About Colin Thomas

Colin Thomas is a Vancouver-based editor, an award-winning playwright, and an established theatre critic. Colin helps writers unlock the full potential of their novels, short stories, screenplays, and children's books.

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