It is 8.25pm on a aphotic January black and I am active a ablution while cutting a bikini and goggles. Suddenly, a woman’s articulation drifts out of nowhere. “Thank you for absolution me into your bathroom,” she whispers – which charge be up there with the creepiest words to apprehend aback you are semi-naked and allegedly abandoned in a bound room.
Fortunately the articulation is not advancing from an intruder, but from my headphones: I am demography allotment in Swimming Home, an alternate appearance delivered via a smartphone app from “Autoteatro” able Silvia Mercuriali, who creates assignment for audiences to accomplish themselves while afterward audio instructions.
I’m not usually the greatest fan of immersive theatre, advancement that if you pay to see a appearance you shouldn’t again accept to accomplish it yourself, but immersive online productions are bustling up everywhere at the moment, from Zoom annihilation abstruseness evenings to improvised blur nights. With absolutely aught theatre dates in my account now that – checks addendum – all date productions are closed, I absitively to try out three shows over the advance of a anniversary because, well… do you accept any added account for punctuating lockdown’s torpor?
Swimming Home is actually the best alien assembly of the bunch, performed as it is in the ablution and billed, faintly sinisterly, as a appearance area “your home is adapted into a anapestic amplitude area the curtains are waterfalls and the ablution a basic broth, from which annihilation can emerge”. But it has one aloft advantage: it doesn’t booty abode on a awning (indeed, its bathtub ambience makes it actually immersive).
Alas, it turns out this is appealing abundant the alone affair to acclaim the show. It is not hyperbole to say the “performance” is the antecedent of the best deranged and abashing 35 account of my life.
The aerial articulation is aloof the alpha of the night’s absurdity. The show’s narrators – Mercuriali accompanied by Sam Booth and Simon Kane – adviser me through what is bisected a agenda simulation of accessible bathing, and bisected an unhinged brainwork on humanity’s abyssal history and our age-old appetite to swim.
Soon I am embarking on what is about a strip-tease for no one, as I gradually afford my anhydrate and bend afterpiece to the bathtub in a alternation of excruciatingly bit-by-bit accomplish (I am freezing – what of the promised immersion?). These accommodate but are not bound to: alarming on the ablution mirror and autograph the babble “home” on the misted glass; gazing at my breach ducts to acknowledge the baptize our bodies contain, and clenching a anchor and captivation it in advanced of my eye “like a sailor scanning the sea”. Or the nadir, aback I float the cap of a absterge canteen in the ablution “like a little boat?”
A long, draughty 10 account later, I am assuredly acceptable to get in the bath, one bottom at a time in abhorrent slow-motion. Time for a atom of role play, it seems. Aboriginal I brainstorm myself a “feathered creature” aerial aloft the ocean; abutting I lie aback and jerk my achievement “like a bogie or a dolphin”. Then, the admirable finale: apperception I’m amphibian in amniotic aqueous in a mother’s womb.
I adore Swimming Home’s apparent wackiness and its attack to accompany bodies calm (the appearance runs at anchored time slots so participants feel connected). Still, actuality apprenticed into demography allotment in a bathtime hip-thrusting assemblage ultimately feels beneath like a transformative affected acquaintance and added an busy prank.
Keen to overwrite my anamnesis of the black swiftly, the abutting day I braiding a acquaintance into aggravating addition show, The Mermaid’s Tongue – a 90-minute Zoom chance from storytellers Clem Garritty and Ollie Jones.
It begins, confusingly, in a activity cartoon class. Soon, however, a acquaintance alleged Daisy appeals for advice in the babble bar. She wants us to investigate the black affairs in which her acquaintance died. Suddenly, we are plunged into a bent underworld, area as cyber detectives our mission is to coursing bottomward an age-old achievement afore a bent assemblage can acquisition it. Over an hour and a half, we analyze through argument and video letters for clues, browse CCTV footage and drudge into claimed files acceptance to the asleep to analyze codes. For at atomic the aboriginal 10 account I accept no abstraction what is activity on, but my accompaniment cottoned on faster and it is absolutely easier with several minds – up to six bodies can booty part.
The scenes area actors arise are attenuate and there’s little faculty of a alive chance unfurling. Indeed, the black ultimately feels added like an escape allowance claiming than a performance. Nevertheless, it is an ingeniously devised allotment that proves awful absorbing. Not bad for an black on Zoom.
Undercover, from immersive aggregation Morpheus, is evidently in a agnate vein: theatre via Zoom alarm area the “audience” – me, my best friend, my admirer and an intimidatingly switched-on actor we don’t apperceive alleged Helena – are casting as British intelligence agents alive in Dubai. It’s a lot added immersive though, acknowledgment to the blindfolds (or a repurposed brace of tights, in my case) we are instructed to don. It additionally involves added exact interaction, with a amount alleged Morpheus (Dominic McChesney) address the story, pausing every few sentences so we can react. (“In advanced of you is a door,” he ability say. “Open it,” we ability respond.) McChesney proves a arresting storyteller, which agency aback he explains that we can leave the bold if we become “overwhelmed”, I feel a billow of trepidation.
The bearings is high-octane, with our MI6 aggregation answerable with apprehension a advocate actinic afore it avalanche into the amiss hands. McChesney weaves a admirable anecdotal that catapults us from a carnal burghal auberge to the arid and beyond. He tells of baneful substances, alarming creatures, armed soldiers and clandestine laboratories. Again, I am hardly abashed by the awful plot, but this time there are added bodies to aces up the baggy (thank you, Helena).
Yes, I attending absurd sitting at the dining table with a brace of 40 denier tights angry about my arch and shrieking things like “Tame the spider!”, but acknowledgment to a aggregate of McChesney’s accomplishment and my abandoned bottle of sauvignon blanc (cheaper at home than in the West End) none of that matters. I am absolutely bugged in a way I possibly haven’t been back childhood, or at atomic back I got a smartphone. Scratch what I said beforehand about immersive theatre. If McChesney is involved, I’m there.
What accept I learnt afterwards a anniversary of date via sofa? Mainly that immersive theatre makes added faculty to me in lockdown. It’s easier to let your acuteness run agrarian aback there’s alone your active allowance for distraction, rather than a accumulation of strangers – not to acknowledgment beneath awkward aback you’re alleged on to perform. Online productions consistently absorb a awning – annoying aback you’ve been sitting in advanced of one all day – and acceptable theatre actuality off the cards has for bigger or worse shunted the spotlight on to beginning productions. But it’s amazing how a well-relayed anecdotal can carriage you, alike with few backdrop and no absolute animal contact.
We may not be able to go out, but I’m added than up for actuality taken out of myself. Aloof not aback bathtubs are involved.
The Case of the Hung Parliament
Sherlock Holmes online sleuthing chance from immersive theatre veterans Les Enfants Terribles.
27 Jan to 10 March (sherlockimmersive.com)
Mischief Movie Night-In
Improvised blur night area audiences accept the blur they appetite to see performed, with a Valentine’s Day rom-com appropriate on 14 February.
To 31 January (mischiefcomedy.com)
A “sound and instruction-led theatre experience” about altitude change, delivered to your home by bike or electric van to be accomplished in the bath. Yes, there’s added than one bath-based production.
To 12 February (fueltheatre.com)
Rosas Danst Rosas
Tutorial from Belgian beat aerialist Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, who talks you through how to accomplish her 1983 classic, Rosas Danst Rosas.
‘Swimming Home’, to 15 June (silviamercuriali.com); ‘The Mermaid’s Tongue’, to 31 March (themermaidstongue.com); ‘Morpheus Undercover’, advancing (morpheus-show.co.uk)
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