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Perilous Play

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The heroes have been captured and are at the mercy of the villain. Rather than simply killing them, the villain wishes to draw out their torment and humiliate them. So the heroes are forced to perform in a play, often written by the villain themself. This usually takes place in front of a Captive Audience, and the heroes won't survive til the curtain call. Expect Bad "Bad Acting", either from the reluctant performers, the villain's lousy script, or a combination of the two.

Compare to Scheherezade Gambit, in which the heroes initiate the performance in order to buy time.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Films — Animation 
  • Shrek the Third: Upon capturing Shrek, Prince Charming re-enacts the play he did at the beginning of the movie, but with higher production values. He intends for it to end with him executing a chained-up Shrek, though the play is quickly derailed by Shrek's heckling.
  • A non-lethal concert variant happens in Trolls World Tour with Queen Barb's Victory Rock Concert. There, Barb shows the effects of the Ultimate Power Chord on non-Rock Trolls by blasting it to most of the captured Troll Tribe leaders, resulting in them turning into so-called "Rock Zombies" brainwashed under Rock music. Branch also ends up receiving a blast via Taking the Bullet for Queen Poppy, the only remaining leader to be blasted yet.

    Films — Live-Action 


    Live-Action TV 
  • In the first season finale of Deadly Class, Chester forces Marcus and Shandy to participate in his fake talk show.
  • Kamen Rider Fourze: Cancer Zodiarts takes a person's souls, and then challenges them to "Open Mic From Hell". They make him laugh? He loses his power. They don't? He snips their souls, sending their owners into comas.
  • There are multiple instances of this from Star Trek: The Original Series. Most notably, Parmen uses his advanced mental powers to force Kirk and Spock to perform humiliating stunts in "Plato's Stepchildren".

    Video Games 
  • The Night of the Rabbit: The Great Zaroff has turned the inside of the First Tree into a theater, with the audience being the brainwashed people of Mousewood. In an attempt to break Jerry's spirit, he forces him to reenact various scenes from his adventure with a darker twist. Even worse is that his friends have been brainwashed into going along with the play as well.
  • Pocket Mirror: In the bad ending of "The Witching Hour", the Strange Boy kidnaps G, stitches her mouth shut, and forces her to watch a horrific stage play in which he brutally murders all of the characters, mocking them all the while. Each one of the girls is strung up like a puppet, and the Strange Boy speaks for them.

    Web Comics 
  • Cucumber Quest: Count Legato kidnaps the people of Organetto, and later Cucumber and company, and forces them to be extras in his "magnum opus", Prince Crescendo, which mainly consists of them singing his praises.
  • Widdershins: A rogue Spirit of Envy takes over a theatre and puts on depraved (and deadly) skits that exploit the viewers' and actors' vulnerabilities, enforced with a combination of Emotion Bombing and People Puppetry. It's foiled when The Resenter Voss refuses to play his role as "the Hero" and kill his Unknown Rival Wolfe.

    Western Animation 
  • Futurama: The Planet Express crew take Leonard Nimoy to the planet where the rest of the Star Trek actors had gone... only for everybody to get captured by Melllvar, an energy cloud creature who is also an obsessed Trekkie. Melllvar declares that they will now be forced to participate in a Fan Convention for all eternity, and the first activity is for the cast to record an awful, awful fan script he had written for the show.
    Shatner: [deadpan] Alas, my ship, whom I love like a woman, is... disabled.
    Nimoy: [deadpan] Fascinating, Captain, and logical too, that we need some help.
  • Teen Titans: Mumbo sucks all of the Teen Titans into a world within his hat, uses his magic to turn them into animals, and then forces them to perform alongside him onstage in his various magic acts. But before the finale where he'll, "make them disappear forever," they trick him by painting themselves to match the background to make it look like they've escaped their cages.