7 October 2014

Ring at Battersea Arts Centre was dark, really dark

Ring at Battersea Arts Centre sounded sufficiently weird and unusual that I had to go.

The promotional blurb suggested that it was an unreal sound journey in complete darkness. There was so much about that brief description to like, complete darkness for a start.

The evening started well and I found a new route from Clapham Junction to BAC which took me behind the main road past Lidl and Boots. I do not think that the route is very much shorter but by avoiding the busy junction by The Falcon it is certainly easier.

The evening continued well when I arrived at BAC as I was in plenty of time to get some food and grab a pint. I even managed to get one of the tables on the raised section of the bar which somehow felt separate from the rest of the room.

There were other shows on at BAC that night and Ring was staged in the former Council Chamber upstairs. I had admired the scale of the room on a previous visit but had not imagined that it would be used for performances.

Come the time we were ushered in to the room which was arranged as if to watch a game, something like chess, being played. There was a gap down the middle of the room and the rest of the space was filled with chairs facing the centre.

As we took our places our host spoke briefly to  few of us and took a few names. This, it transpired, was part of the show and we were led in to it carefully and subtly that it was only afterwards that all of the cleverness could be understood.

The chairs were fixed a little distance apart and we were told to move so that we were not sitting next to anybody that we knew. Hindsight says that this was so that we could not reach out for reassurance during the show.

Word of mouth (e.g. Twitter) and good reviews had done their work and every seat seemed to be taken.

We also did a light, or rather a dark, test. The room was made completely dark, I was surprised at just how complete the darkness was, and we were told that it would be like this for an hour and that if we were uncomfortable with that then that was the time to leave. One person moved closer to an exit just in case.

We were given headphones to wear and out host continued to explain what would happen. Somewhere along the way the host's voice stopped coming from him and came from a recording instead. From then on all we heard was through the headphones and we say absolutely nothing.

The scenario that we were led in to was that of a self-help group, hence the Ring, and we heard the other members of the group talking. The audio was amazing in that it sounded completely natural with a depth of sound as well as width. We also had one person whispering in our ear. It was all very effective.

Remarkable though the set-up was it would not have worked unless the story worked and it worked very well. The other people sitting in the Ring talked and argued so that we were quickly immersed in their histories and passions. The details of the story did not matter, it was the mood, the energy and the tension that held me spellbound until somebody slowly put the lights back on. There was a murder in there somewhere which gave a dark turn to our story in the dark.

I went to see (?) Ring because it was different and loved it because of the way it immersed me in its intrigue.

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