Wednesday, March 07, 2007

faust

We got off the tube at Wapping, finding Wapping Lane easily whilst I gulped down the last bit of my prawn and avocado sandwich. Finding number 21 was a little more difficult; we stopped along the road to consult a map that made no difference at all, and giggling we reassured ourselves that it was just a little further along. It was. There, on the right hand side of the road, opposite the Tobacco Dock Pirate Ship, stood 21 Wapping Lane; a sign on the side proclaiming “WARNING: dangerous structure keep out”. With fifteen minutes to go until Group 4 opened the gates and let us in, we wandered about a little, admired the pirate ship and remarked on how the evening and suddenly become somewhat more obscure than a usual trip to the theatre.

At seven they let us in, and we took the long walk around the warehouse to the entrance, clustered into the worn and dusty hallway area before being led down into the dark. Here we caught a brief glimpse of the bar before each being handed out a white mask that covered our faces entirely, then herded into a lift and whisked up to the third floor. At each floor a number of us were shoved out into the darkness and told to be brave before the lift gates slammed shut and the few of us remaining went down to the next. On the first floor we were all out, letting our eyes adjust to the darkness and beginning our adventure.

For three hours we wandered through the dark, over five floors in near silence. We met the old Faust, the young Faust, Mephistopheles, Gretchen, Angels and an Evangelist. We walked through 1950’s diners and bars, through rooms that smelt of musty old fabrics, rooms where white linen hung from the ceiling. There was a corridor of almost complete darkness, lined on each side by candles and statues of the Virgin Mary, black tassels of fabric hanging from the ceiling and noises coming from barely visible rooms on either side. A room entirely filled with racks and racks of what looked like old tape cassette holders led in to another room, pentacle painted on the floor. There were floors filled with pine trees, a fallen church spire on the floor. An attic room that was filled with the scent of lavender and a mannequin hidden in the corner that would make you jump out of your skin.

In between this wandering, we caught glimpses of the story. Followed characters for a short while on their journeys, or watched entire scenes play out. We were all present at the final scene, acted out in the basement and lit by a blue light. We watched as the characters danced, hanging by their arms from the ceiling, or leaping onto cage walls, and still that darkness and near silence.


It was the most exciting play I’ve ever seen, and certainly the most adventurous. Leaving the audience to wander around, finding their own play within the play, being able to follow whichever character they wanted and yet knowing that they would never be able to see the whole story, that other sections were happening elsewhere in the vast building. A truly fantastic night out.

1 comment:

Jon said...

I've also seen this, and it was excellent. In my case, the audience was rather large, and the sight and sound of people trooping around trying to follow the action, and occasionally chatting about irrelevant things, rather took away from the experience.

It was however the closest I've seen to interactive theatre. It reminded my of computer role playing games where a story unfolds in semi-asynchronous mode, depending on what order the player explores the game's locations.

I think overall, they would have done better with a shorter play that was repeated more than twice during the evening - that would have created less pressure to rush after the main characters trying to catch the exciting bits.

It should also be said that the bar at the end of the play is first rate.