Last wednesday I was lucky enough to see an extremely entertaining performance that took place in an abandoned biscuit factory of all places! It was a bit hard to get to, but after a bus ride and a quick tube ride I found the group I was going with and we made our way to the theatre…factory…venue. After walking in what seemed like a giant circle in the freezing cold, we finally made our way into the factory. I can’t say what I was expecting exactly but it certainly wasn’t what I found.
After handing over my ticket, I was directed to my left where I was immediately met with a freshly cut wooden maze. This seemed metaphorical enough (architects build things do they not?) and quite fun so I began my journey to my seat. I realize now that I am horribly hopeless when it comes to mazes. It is a miracle I found my seat. The “theatre” was a room that looked sort of like a restaurant with different levels of seating with tables and chairs. It had a bar on one end and a band playing pressed against one of the walls. The colors where quite whimsical and almost circus-like with black and white pinstripes on the walls, and the tables and chairs matching the color scheme. There were also three “windows” on one wall that looked as if they were looking out towards the ocean from a huge ship. Oh, and there was also a giant bull statue in the middle of the room. Can’t forget that.
Another interesting thing to mention (and applaud) is the immense attention and dedication to detail that this performance had. Before showtime I had to go to the bathroom. Nervous because it involved going back into the maze for a bit, I decided to be brave and find the ladies room. Lucky for me someone was coming out of the door marked “bathrooms” for there was no door handle on the door. When I got passed the door, I was faced with a huge dark warehouse-sized room (this was in fact, an abandoned factory). The only light to speak of was a red neon line running from one end of the giant room to the other. I took a deep breath and followed the line towards the light at the end of the room and WAS ATTACKED!! Just kidding. The bathrooms were at the end of the room. The added element of uneasiness and mystery even for one going to the bathroom was quite fun for me and made me excited to see what the actual show was going to be like.
I got back to my seat and 5 minutes later the show began. The band began to play a song which was probably called “A Trip of a Lifetime” since they repeated that phrase so often. Then a lady in a pink puffy dress with only one sparkly shoe on her foot and a pregnant belly popping out under her dress came out and started teetering her way towards the bull. She then proceeded to stick her hand up the (pardon my language) butt-hole of the bull and pull out her other sparkly shoe. Then she put on the shoe, smiled to herself and walked away. Weird.
A screen came down and four lavish and odd people introduced themselves (think mannerisms of Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean mixed with Olivia Newton John track suits). Then the live cast came out. It was a middle-aged man and three women of various ages and sizes. Instead of dressed in bright colors they were all dressed pretty plainly and didn’t act like the people in the video to differentiate between characters. They then went around shaking hands and introducing themselves (the bull disappeared around this time). Then one of the women began making a speech about “architecture” to the audience. I picked up some key phrases like, “architecture is based on wonder” and “memory keeps repetition out of play.” After her speech ended the crazy people came on screen again and began saying the audience was about to go on the trip of a lifetime (via cruise ship). Then, the trip began.
For every different scene, the lights would go out to determine a break/jump in time. For example, in one scene the man would make an announcement that someone had rearranged all the furniture in his room. Then the lights would go out and one of the women would be calling out raffle numbers and awarding a prize to the “winner.” This choppiness gave the scenes a comical feel and really did a good job in conveying both the passage of time, and the feeling that I was actually a participant on the cruise. Sometimes the screen would come back on, and the crazy people, (each time looking drunker and less clothed then the last time) would start yelling at their bland counterparts that they were not running the cruise good enough etc.
At one point, two “kids” in striped footie pajamas and matching hats came in. Apparently they were not supposed to be there because it was an adult only cruise, but their parents (the four regular people running the cruise) has snuck them on hoping they would not be seen. The parents then promptly sent their children to bed after they gave a goodnight kiss to everyone in the audience. The amount of interaction that the characters had with the audience was really refreshing and fun for me because they literally interacted with EVERYONE in the audience, and not just a selected few.
The turning point of all of this is when the screen turned on and one of the drunk crazy women looked directly into the camera and said her “boy” was going to break all of our hearts. Literally. Then the screen cut off, the normal people gasped and said *** is here! The lights cut out and when they went back on we were ordered to evacuate men on one side, women on the other. Yes, we actually all got up out of our seats and evacuated. We were led into this pitch black room with curtains all around and one monitor in the middle telling us that we were doomed and that we were all going to be sacrificed to the monster. It was actually pretty scary since the pitch black isolated every single person and the evacuation was so abnormal in itself, I had no idea what to expect.
Finally the curtain on one side fell away and looking up I saw a bunch of ropes hanging down from the ceiling with the two “children” dancing and flipping in the ropes. The acrobats did a routine where the ropes kept falling, and the danger of the beast was coming and eventually they both “fell” to their deaths. Then on a high platform came the beast (rather like a minotaur with a bulls head). Behind the beast came the band with their instruments held as weapons and they killed the beast and saved the day! (yes, definitely very “trippy”). The band then walked out towards the room we had all come from and just as everyone was about to follow, a red light was turned on in a box above the platform and there were the crazy people (now played in real life), with their robes completely open to reveal their birthday suits. Now it was time to leave, if I could just get through that maze again…
Overall, the experience was very different and wonderful. I really liked the themes that developed through the show like the ones connecting the maze to the minotaur, and the title “The Architects” to the fact that they created a simulation of us going on a cruise. The interaction was great, the costumes were whimsical to match the venue, and the acrobatic show was unexpected but very beautiful and extremely enjoyable. This show had a great vibe to it from the start and really delivered a unique theatrical experience. Till next time!