As we all know, my one true love is theatre, so how appropriate that I should spend Valentine's Day seeing a play, with the added delight of it being in a pub. I say 'seeing a play' but really, you are in the play. The premise is that we the audience are off to a speed-dating night, hosted by the 'happily married' Sylvia (Ellen Lock Ireland) and Timothy (Gersom De Koning Tan). As you make your way around the six tables, Sylvia and Timothy occasionally pop over to check up on you, or indeed each other. One of my 'dates' was interrupted by Sylvia discipling her over-enthusiastic husband, who she essentially treated as her pet idiot; a role Timothy was well suited to. It all felt like we were all part of a delightful game for Sylvia and Timothy to torture each other with.
I have limited experience of interactive/immersive theatre and it takes a while to get used to. Because of the nature of the piece, it's quite brief but I managed to find my way after a few tables. My personal tip would be that in order to get the most out of immersive theatre, you have to immerse yourself in it as well as letting it immerse you. Some characters were keen to tell you their life story whereas others liked to have conversations. You have complete control over the quality of your experience. Obviously with a context such as speed-dating, it's a little more uncomfortable but that's because we're used to plays being about other people, not ourselves. However, once you've got over that, you can enjoy the performance and get a bit of an insight as to where you stand on romance and love.
At the six tables were a range of characters. Some of them were clearly there to indoctrinate people, such as Molly, who wanted to harrass you about animal rights, and Clive, the self-made City businessman who thinks that love is a commodity and that partners are much like your car or your house. Flo the beautician had come along to have a good time, Bee the neurotic had come along to have a bad time, and Carol had come along to make you have a bad time. The reasons for drop-out Laza going speed-dating were less apparant, though his character was the most improvised as he reacted specifically to your answers.
The characters were all based from monologues that the actors had been given two weeks prior to the performance as a stimulus for their improvisation. A sneaky admission: I had actually written one of the stimuli monologues so theoretically I was on the lookout for 'the one'. 'The one' was John, here a sensitive artist. Though the actor had changed details, the essence of the character was the same, and much subtler. I thought it was a great touch that he had arranged the confetti on the table into the shape of a heart, so sitting at his table, there was no question that he was looking for 'the one' and that he'd decided you were going to be 'the one' whether you liked it or not.
The most well-written character was Clive. I don't know how much of his speech was improvised by the actor and how much was the original monologue but his dialogue was excellent. The actor was every inch the businessman. Saying that, all the characters were well-written in the sense that I could remember who they were- not always the case when watching a play.
Scrapbook Theatre Company are a relatively new student company but they certainly have a lot of ideas. Having now armed myself to get the most out of interactive theatre, I look forward to their next 'show', or I suppose 'theatrical experience', though that sounds a bit pretentious, doesn't it? And critics are never pretentious...