“Gives chills and thrills aplenty”
Hidden really is a treat for anyone who’s ever wanted to explore what goes on everywhere else in a theatre that audiences don’t normally get to see. Marry that with tales from the history of the building and a Victorian horror story and you have quite an intriguing evening’s entertainment. However, while the idea and overall style and feel of the piece were terrific, there was no clear narrative or sense of progression between each section, leaving me feeling a bit cheated as to specific details and stories.
Individual sections were generally great at creating an overall mood, setting a scene (the dressing rooms in particular stood out), or presenting a static idea, and the piece was littered with numerous magical moments – terrified faces and screams, isolated “scenelets” and monologues. Yet we learned very little about who these characters were, why there were there, and how they related to anything else that was going on.
While for most of the performance, the audience is directed where to go next by theatre ushers, in one section in the scenery dock, three of the young performers (Xanthe Mitchell, Ellis Imrie and Anna Millar) more than capably moved us around to follow the action. Staying true to their characters and without speaking, they created a compelling and haunting theatrical moment, demonstrating commanding professionalism and presence beyond their years. Moving into the area beneath the stage, Gregor Weir delivered a very charismatic and spooky monologue about being trapped, making clever use of the space by hiding in between and rattling racks of stored stage lights.
Indeed this whole section (directed by Lyceum Artistic Director Mark Thompson), which allowed the audience to fill the space as they wanted and explore the action from the perspective they chose, gave the piece a very immersive and personal feel. It’s a shame that this sense of individual discovery was not carried through more parts of the performance, particularly the section on the stage, where instead we were asked to simply stand in a line to one side and observe.
In saying that, the section in the stairwell leading up to “the Gods” (very emotively delivered by Emma Simpson and Tegan Wright) was a great way to follow the action, and break-up the sense of travelling from one part to the next by making the travelling itself part of the performance. Similarly, walking behind the bar in the stalls, past three caged performers shrieking to be let out, also helped make the “journey” more interesting to experience.
While it wouldn’t have been right to have delivered this piece in tour guide style, I feel that making more effort to communicate some of the background to each section would have been really beneficial. I felt it also lacked a little bit of diversity in terms of mood – it was almost all a chilling ghost story, when some happier or funnier moments of the theatre’s history would have added another layer of depth to the performance.
Given that this performance was devised and delivered by young people, in collaboration with four different directors, one must give them due credit for their achievement – this is a very ambitious project that gives chills and thrills aplenty, and is a worthy education and exploration into just how exciting theatre can be. For me it just lacked that bit of cohesion to make it really special.
Reviewer: Steve Griffin (Seen 20 October)
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THIS REVIEW HAS NOT BEEN SUBEDITED