It’s not often I find myself walking out of a theatre in stunned silence… at the same time desperate to scream about what I’ve just seen. At last week’s performance of ‘Faust’ I was moved in such a way that my insides were squirming, my brain twisting in fear and delight and damn it, I wanted the whole world to know.
Luckily, for the people of East London, the ‘show’ finished well past the average person’s bedtime so this jubilant little theatre buff couldn’t accost them in the middle of Shadwell. It was probably for the best… knowing my luck I’d have cornered the local drug lord and do my best to inform him that ‘his cultural and artistic future’ depended on seeing ‘Faust’.
On the way to the theatre I’d been confused, cold, a tad lost and quite scared for my life (some of us North Londoners find the East side funky but intimidating). I’d made the trip alone and as I stumbled toward what looked to be an abandoned old warehouse I was sure I’d made a wrong turn; a lone security guard the only sign that (perhaps) this was the mystery location. One abandoned car park and a few near stumbles later and I found myself in the inconspicuous ‘foyer’. Still very much ‘in the dark’ about what I was letting myself in for; I began to regret my solo trip. I mean, how many productions involve entering in shifts? One confused group at a time…
“Take a number and don’t leave the saloon until you are told to do so” said the cheerful but stern host. “Feel free to leave your group, delve into the dark and create your own adventure. Don’t be scared…”
I began to shiver. What in God’s name…?
I won’t go in to details… the beauty of my experience was the fact that I had no idea of what to expect. It was for this reason, I found myself wowed by every nook and cranny in the five-storey wonderland. I’m not talking ‘Alice’ though guys… this was the type of nightmare you don’t want to wake up from.
To divulge too much about the story, the scenery, the characters and the atmosphere would do both you, and the production an injustice. The truth is, the experience is one hundred percent different for every person that experiences it. Theatre group Punchdrunk have done an amazing job to plan and choreograph a potential three-hour piece of theatre that engulfs each and every audience member. A word of warning; comfortable shoes and warm clothing are mandatory.
There’s nothing like the feeling of fear rising in your throat and the tight grip of darkness around your throat as distant sounds wreak havoc on your imagination. Two minutes was enough for one poor woman and I have to admit I almost ran for the exit too (well, I would have if I’d known where it was!). Surprisingly, I conquered a fear or four and split from the group into the darkness… and my own chilling adventure. Boy am I glad I did. Once I harnessed the adrenaline rush, not even the deathly white masks worn by the audience could put me off my mission. I spent the full three-hours chasing the storyline (Faust’s famous tragic downfall), jumping at my own shadow and dancing with random characters. The action packed Saloon bar couldn’t even pull me away.
If there’s one thing you do this year, trust a vague review and see Faust. If I had the time, I’d grab each and every one of you and drag you down there by the scruff of your neck. If you’re not one for the theatre, it’s even more reason to go. This blows the average on-stage experience right out of the water.