Nathan Penlington: Choose Your Own Documentary

Nathan Penlington: Choose Your Own Documentary

by Joanna Orland

Nathan Penlington presents a documentary to his audience that puts both him and them at the heart of the story.  The audience is given devices which allow them to vote for each key decision Nathan needs to make in the narrative of the documentary.  The documentary plays out differently dependent on the audience’s choices.  I believe Nathan said that there were over 1500 versions of how this documentary could play out, some ending abruptly and some playing out further.  I was quite happy with the path my documentary took and feel very proud that I played a small part in this story unraveling as it did that day at the Edinburgh Fringe.

The audience at my sitting of Choose Your Own Documentary was rather logical rather than sentimental.  We followed a trail based on facts rather than emotional tangents.  We chose a more linear story based on the main premise itself, Choose Your Own Adventure Books which Nathan Penlington pays homage to in more ways than one with this documentary feat.

To start the show, Nathan gives a rather long introduction about the history of Choose Your Own Adventure Books and his passion for them.  This passion led him on his path to purchase a collection of used books off of Ebay, which is how he found excerpts from a young boy’s diary tucked away in the novels.  He was touched by the writings of a young, troubled boy with low self esteem and wanted to know what had become of him, and so begins the documentary.

With so many variations of the story to play out, I would love to again watch Nathan Penlington: Choose Your Own Documentary, perhaps with a more sentimental audience in tow.  The only thing prohibiting me from immediately doing so is the lengthy aforementioned introduction.  It was much too long and detailed, a quick overview would have sufficed.  It was the documentary itself that was the true heart of the show and we should have dived in much quicker to get maximum enjoyment out of this complex, entangled story.


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