From the plot tight theatrics of Slung Low at the Barbican to the quasi horror of Foolish People at the Old Abbatoir in St John’s Street, Clerkenwell. This “performance” was so nearly there. It got so many things right (the location – a multi floored industrial abbatoir; the costumes – freaky and sticky animal masks disfiguring and isolating those wearing them; the set – a Victoriana Jekyll and Hyde experience). It only got one thing wrong. It completely forgot the plot.
From my first experiences of interactive performance theatre such as this, theatre companies have always seemed to revel in how they can screw up, twist and maul the plots of the novels they interpret. Almost like the theatrical equivalent of Pulp Fiction they cut and change and play with time. However, there still has to be a plot. Something with a cohesion and a sense of travel at the centre.
This is where Punchdrunk went so wrong with Masque of the Red Death; they swapped acting and plot for hysterical wailings. Unfortunately the Abbatoir Pages also makes this mistake. What storyline there was revolved around madness and the bleeding of fiction into reality. This meant that they could plop onto the lowest common denominator and wander about wailing with some mad dancing.
On the positive side they exploited their space well and there were some unique moments. Following a man in a hood led you down a narrow long passage way where you came across a naked woman. As he molested her in front of two or three other attendees, you felt, well, awkward and downright uncomfortable.
Also the way in which you were guided and halted through the building by a combination of a running hare (with a bell) or people standing their blocking the door with the epic animal masks was intimidating and excellently done. One guest became so overwhelmed they even lashed out and had to break out.
That said, I have had similarly evocative experiences wandering back through a deserted park in a rough area of town on my own at night.
- Price – £15 (though you could just get very drunk and wander around Brixton)
- Address – Old Abbatoir in St John’s Street, Clerkenwell.