The Bush Theatres Exceptional Promise exhibits just that; exceptional promise.
The show Exceptional Promise takes form as a game show where three contestants answer a range of quick-round questions and compete to win a deed to their dream home. The contestants are all played by members of the creative team of Project 2036, “a three-year programme, currently in its second year, which offers three artists of colour – a playwright, director and producer – a bursary each, generously funded by the Leverhulme Trust”. Each performance is unique due to the every changing game show questions and the fact that the host rotates each night between various comedians. I had the privilege of witnessing comedian Brian Lobel host Exceptional Promise in all of his genuine, lovable, comedic glory.
Salome Wagaine, contestant and producer of Project 2026, describes Exceptional Promise to be “our way of looking at some pretty personal issues in a funny format… we are looking at nationhood, belonging, inheritance, what it means to make a home.” As an audience member, I was able to witness the contestants share personal horror stories of housing in London. From slugs in the shower, fornicating flies in the kitchen, and (possibly the most horrific of them all) the sheer cost of living in London. Through the contestants telling real stories and the intimate setting of the performance space, I didn’t feel like I was simply viewing a performance but I was rather with a group of friends discussing the travesties of London housing. This sense of intimacy during a performance is an addictive breath of fresh air, I am itching to see the next performance and how it will differ from the previous night.
The only reason why Exceptional Promise falls short from being exceptional rather than exhibiting exceptional promise is due to the missing conclusion of the show. It was exhilarating witnessing personal stories about housing and belonging, but there was no answer to the question “what it means to make a home.” As an audience member, I left the theatre asking “so what now” and feeling like there was a missing bow to tie together the themes of the show.