TELEVISION / Good and bad at games

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The Independent Culture
'EXPOSURE', Sue Bourne's film for Cutting Edge (C 4) followed a group of hapless executives as they struggled through a week at John Ridgway's notoriously tough Outward Bound centre in northern Scotland. Here they had to endure both the pitiless blasts of the Scottish weather and of Ridgway's evangelical heartiness, the latter starting almost as soon as the reluctant participants had stumbled from their coach on to the shores of a Scottish inlet. As the managers stood sulkily in the wind, trying to make their chins disappear into their chests, a stocky figure in baggy shorts strode up, climbed on to a rock, and started to recite poetry. 'The sand of the desert is sodden red,' he intoned; 'Red with the blood of a square that broke.' The first tough challenge was upon the senior managers of Rockwater, a marine engineering firm: could they get through the whole poem without giggling audibly?

The blame for this ordeal appeared to lie with the American general manager, Scott, who rallied his troops before they set off on the coach. 'Rockwater has a mission to be the leader,' he said. 'As managers we need to be tough and fit.' The suited crowd looked back at him doubtfully - 'As managers we need a 25-grand car and complete medical insurance package,' you imagined them thinking. But while rank insubordination was apparently permitted (a disgruntled Dutchman called Peter performed heroically in this respect), sitting it out in the pub was clearly not an option.

And the rigours of the course had not been exaggerated. After a bracing swim ashore (the film was made last September) and a night spent with five colleagues in a tent made for three, the participants were forced to climb a nearby mountain in a drenching gale strong enough to lean a ladder against. The executive who had been glimpsed earlier puffing away on an exercise bike in preparation for the trip (puffing away on a cigarette, that is) appeared to be reconciling himself to an early death. Another group, reluctant to display the team spirit that this endurance test was intended to produce, stood dripping and disconsolate as they were harangued by a young man they probably wouldn't have employed to stack boxes.

The results of this grim excursion weren't quite what the organisers had bargained for. Rather than basking in a warm glow of virtuous fatigue, the group had been stirred up into fury. Peter resolutely refused to stiffen his lip out of its petulant curl (an act of some valour given the fact that some erstwhile allies had collapsed in the face of Ridgway's bluff hectoring) and others had started to question whether being pushed through the hoops like this was creating better managers or just more biddable ones. Given this fractious beginning you braced yourself for a slow ascent into acceptance, smiles of achievement and the zealotry of the newly converted. So it was a particular delight that the course ended in mutiny, even though most of those present had come to enjoy the challenges they were presented with.

Ordered to strip and dive off a perfectly serviceable boat, almost everyone refused. Ridgway took this display of independent thought and team solidarity rather badly, grappling a couple of mutineers into the water. As one of the jubilant rebels later pointed out, you would have thought he would have been pleased - after all, these were senior executives, not sheep, and their resistance was carefully argued. Some of them - those so conformist that they had briefly conformed to non-conformism - marred the effect by proposing to jump in anyway, having made their point. Fortunately Peter held out, a hero for everyone who has ever stood sullen and resistant before the gamesmasters and school prefects of the world.

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