CD Maxima is, I think, the closest I've ever encountered to an unreviewable show. There's so much I could write about it… but if I told you almost anything about what happens, I'd severely diminish its effect. I can say, though, that it's an immersive piece of theatre, and that the situation you're immersed in is hideous: a thing which, if it happened in real life, would be the stuff of screaming nightmares. I can say, too, that you're confronted by decisions which have consequences, and which pose difficult questions about the way human beings behave. And last but not least – I can say that it was one of the most memorable experiences I've had at this or any Fringe.
Because for me, at least, that experience was rousing: surprising, intense and nervy. The piece is well-designed and well-controlled, and when I made the effort to engage my rational mind I could tell that I was in the very safest of hands. But suspension of disbelief is a powerful thing – and for the first time I can remember during a piece of immersive theatre, I felt a genuine rush of physical fear.
Different audience members get different treatments, with a solicitous questionnaire at the start deciding how hard-core your own experience will be. But in my case, there was an element of physical disempowerment – a disturbing awareness that I'd put my real-world self in a situation I couldn't escape on my own. There are all kinds of questions here about the contract between actors and audience; questions I won't pretend I can answer. Did I give informed consent for what they did? Not really. Am I glad they did it anyway? Absolutely. Does that make it OK? You decide.
On a subtler level though, I felt I got off a little easily. There's a moral decision to be made which, on the day I attended, was a little too straightforward to evade; as a result of that, the climactic final scene didn't provoke quite as much inner conflict as perhaps it should have done. There's an interesting sense of "otherness" too, which maybe deserves to feel a little darker. The cast speak an invented language and wear clothes that suppress their individuality – but they seem rather friendly, all the same.
Dramatically, CD Maxima also suffers from having two related, but distinct, theses. One of them is based around some highly dubious barrack-room lawyering; it's a shame it resorts to that, because the underlying point – that you should take care what you sign your name to – is perfectly fair. For me, though, the play's real message concerns how easy it is to betray your principles by simply doing nothing, and how important it is to make our own decisions in the face of pressure from a crowd. CD Maxima makes some powerful gestures towards those questions, but it doesn't probe them all that deeply; more focus on these essential points might turn a thought-provoking play into a genuinely life-changing one.
Ultimately, though, I can't help but admire both the boldness and the finesse of this production. I have well over a thousand Fringe shows under my belt, and I didn't expect anything now could genuinely surprise me; yet CD Maxima shook me out of that complacency. There's a debate to be had about the ethics of all this, and it's not something I'd feel able to recommend to everyone. But if you're brave, up-for-it, and self-aware, then I think you'll enjoy this encounter with the Fringe taken to the max.