Get me out of here…

‘I hope this is over soon,’ ‘keep your shit together’, and ‘get me out of here’ were my main abiding thoughts during Glen Neath & David Rosenberg: Seance. These are the exact same thoughts that I had recently when watching the Peppa Pig Live Show. But I really enjoyed and was affected by Seance. Peppa Pig – not so much.

Enjoyed is probably the wrong word; as from the second I entered the shipping container performance space with my fellow dozen audience members, I had to fight the urge to scream ‘let me out’.

Once inside the container, we were instructed to take a seat at a dining table and to put on a pair of headphones. Sitting opposite one another, we exchanged nervous smiles before the lights were cut and we were plunged into complete darkness. What follows is an incredibly creepy, intense and unsettling 15 minute show, which is conducted through sound only.

Seance
Photo credit: glenneath.co.uk

It is hard to describe what happens next… The medium of the Seance tells us to keep our hands firmly on the table no matter what; he whispers to audience members; stalks up and down the table; keep your hands on the table; summons a demon or did he mean to dispel it; questions us as to whether we believe; the demon arrives; keep your hands on the table; audience members are made to lie on the table; the demon’s breathing is getting closer; the entire place is vibrating now; KEEP YOUR HANDS ON THE TABLE…

And it’s over. Phew!!!

This is one immersive audio experience. I don’t think any of the above actually happened. Okay I knew at the time that a demon wasn’t really there – obvs! But I was pretty convinced that people were getting out their seats and lying on the table and that the medium was speaking directly to me at points (I answered him on a number of occasions) and that keeping my hands on the table was pertinent to everyone’s safety. But really, none of this happened right? I was just listening to a meticulously devised recording.

This is the third project that writers and theatre-makers, Glen Neath and David Rosenberg, have collaborated on. I love the quote that have use as a descriptor for the show:

‘The most important thing in this world is the destruction of superstition. Superstition interferes with the happiness of mankind. Superstition is a terrible serpent, reaching in frightful coils from heaven to earth and thrusting its poisoned fangs into the hearts of men. While I live, I am going to do what little I can for the destruction of this monster’ – Robert Green Ingersoll (1886)

I saw Seance in the Faraway Forest at Latitude Festival. To find out where it is next showing visit glenneath.co.uk.

 

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Immerse yourself this summer

Immersive cultural events are on the rise, giving audiences the chance to get closer to their entertainment than ever before.  The level of audience interaction varies greatly – from 3D blockbusters in D-box shaky cinema seats to full on theatre shows where audience members are dressed as a character and breaking the fifth wall – to everything in between.

Audience Adventures has teamed up with WOW 247 to bring you 11 immersive events worth experiencing in Glasgow this summer.

Bard in the Botanics, Botanic Gardens (June 23 – July 30)
Scotland’s premier Shakespeare Company bring their imaginative productions to the beautiful outdoor setting of the Botanic Gardens. Prepare to follow the actors in promenade theatre style for this season’s productions of Twelfth Night, Coriolanus, Macbeth and Christopher Marlowe’s Dr Faustus (marking the first time the company has departed from the Shakespearean canon). Keep an eye on the company’s handy weather watch!

Wee Green Cinema, Pollokshields Playhouse (July 2-3)
The Wee Green Cinema is a UK first, with audiences and crew pedalling to power it, as it screens an exclusive programme of films about the planet. The 40-seater will be visiting Glasgow’s southside for one weekend only for a Southside Film Festival special event to celebrate all things green, with screenings of WALL-E, Wadjda and more. Screenings are free and unticketed.

SURGE Festival, Merchant City Festival (July 30 & 31)
SURGE is Scotland’s annual festival of street arts, physical theatre and circus. Cutting edge Scottish and international performers fill the streets and spaces of the city during one weekend of the Merchant City Festival, with shows and street encounters that are outlandish and wildly unique. Programme to be announced soon.

Escape Glasgow (all year round)
The ‘escape the room’ format that has proven so popular with hen & stag dos, as well as for corporate team building, has set up a permanent base in Glasgow. Participants (2-5 people) are locked in a mysterious room and have 60 minutes to work out how to escape. There are two games to choose from: Classic – where code breaking, observational skill and mental dexterity are put to the test; and Contagion, where participants take on the role of scientists working against the clock and against infection to create a vaccine for a fatal global virus.

To view all 11 events, visit WOW 247 Glasgow.

Sleep No More

I had an amazing holiday in New York last month, which was an intense week of cramming in as much culture and cuisine as possible. One of the highlights was going to see Sleep No More, which has been running in the Big Apple since March 2011. The award-winning and critical acclaimed reinterpretation of Macbeth by companies Punchdrunk & Emursive has had cross-over success with culture vultures and mainstream audiences alike, entering popular culture with front page coverage on Vanity Fair, appearances in major US TV shows, and a run that is continually extended due to demand.

Oh hi!

Oh hi!

For those of you unfamiliar with Punchdrunk, they create immersive theatrical experiences, where audiences are allowed to roam around freely, taking in the physical performances of the actors as they come across them. This takes place within an incredibly detailed large-scale set that spans multiple floors, with each room more akin to an art installation than a theatre set. Oh and audience members wear masks giving you the freeing feeling of anonymity for the three-hour event. Here’s me in me mask.

From booking your ticket to exiting the performance, the entire production is in character. The premise is that you are checking into The McKittrick Hotel – a decadent luxury hotel from 1939 that was sealed up at the outbreak of WW2 and is only now opening its doors for the first time. The  fictitious McKittrick Hotel is in fact an abandoned warehouse which has been transformed into a performance space, restaurant and bar, defying belief in terms of vision, detail and cost. When we arrived, a couple behind us asked the doorman if the show was in the same location as the restaurant and they were bluntly told that there was no show, this is a hotel.

When you ‘check in’ you are handed a playing card and are led to a bar, where 1930’s styled sirens perform songs to a backdrop of red mood lighting and absinthe cocktails, gently immersing you in the atmosphere before your suit of card is called to enter – this works nicely as a way to break up couples and groups.

Sleep no more3

Sleep no more 1Upon entering, I straight away came across one of the major set pieces of the play, the witches summoning a series of apparitions, prophesying Macbeth’s future. It’s an intense scene to open with, and I did feel for anyone who may be there on a first date, as the strobe lit naked orgy rave, including animal heads, blood and babies, was quite the opener for those of us who came across it as their first room. Of course, many won’t see this scene until much later on in their journey, which is part of the fun of such expansive promenade performances.

Nowhere is the line ‘All the world’s a stage’ more apt than when you attend a Punchdrunk show. Firstly, you are on the set. There are large spaces, for example, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s chamber, an asylum, a ballroom and a maze like forest, as well as numerous smaller rooms, where less of the main sequences play out, but where much is revealed from looking though the intricately displayed props, from letters on desks to opened suitcases on beds. Here, the sets play the role of main character as much as Macbeth himself.  Secondly, you discover the stories in a non-linear fashion, just like the stories we come across in life, dipping in and out, sometimes alone and sometimes with others. You won’t see everything but no-one else will have the exact same experience as you.

Sleep no more 2
Macbeth is a great choice of source material for this type of production. The play’s themes of madness, murder, scheming and the supernatural lend themselves well to unusual stagings. The acclaimed National Theatre of Scotland’s Macbeth, where Alan Cumming played each of the characters in the one-man show, is also an example of a radical re-imagining of Shakespeare’s tragedy. Meanwhile, Punchdrunk’s decision to set the play within a 1930s film noir context worked perfectly, as many film noir tropes, for example, paranoid lead male, femme fatale and crimes of passion, are relevant to Macbeth.

Unlike when you go to a proscenium arch play where the audience plays a passive role and stories and motives become clear as the play progresses, in this type of immersive theatre you have to work hard to decipher the story and characters. I am sure many people thrive on solving such a puzzle, but for me personally, I found it extremely useful having prior knowledge of the play, as I could identify what scenes I was in (you are in the scenes) and which characters were whom.

I have previously seen Punchdrunk’s The Drowned Man, which was based on a text of which I had no prior knowledge – check out my review here.  I tried to follow what was happening but soon became overwhelmed and had to just give myself over to the sensory experience, with the hope that bits of the story would occasionally pierce through my bewildered wall of wonderment. I gained more enjoyment from Sleep No More as I knew the play well, but a sketchy outline of the story would have been more than suffice to help guide you through the journey, elevating the enjoyment factor in my opinion.

In fact, it was quite exhilarating at one point to realise that I knew exactly where to position myself to make sure I was able to follow Macbeth to his next scene to see him murder King Duncan, after interpreting a torrid dance sequence as Lady Macbeth convincing her husband that the deed must be done. Props to me!

If you’re planning a trip to New York, be sure to make a reservation at the McKittrick Hotel for a most memorable evening. You can check out the Sleep No More trailer here and for tips on attending a Punchdrunk show, scroll to the bottom of my previous blog on The Drowned Man.