Pros: An exciting idea and with an remarkable ability to make you hand over your trust to the performers.
Cons: They didn’t do anything with the trust we gave them.
When my colleagues were asking what I was going to see tonight, it was rather hard to explain The Ring to them. ‘It’s a show. In the dark. Which is “compelling.” Ummm, I’ll let you know tomorrow.’ The write up doesn’t give you much to go on but will certainly strike a chord with the curious, the jaded and those who are fans of the horror genre.
What Fuel delivers is definitely compelling. ‘Michael’ confesses this is not his real name, but deftly earns our trust as he calmly but firmly takes us through how the headset works, gives us an example of what total darkness is like, gives us a way out and offers a chance to leave before the show begins. He is sinister, veiling everything but a threat.
For those who are interested in performer/audience ethics this is fascinating. Ever wonder why people hate audience participation so much? It’s because we give performers trust to meet our expectations and participation we haven’t agreed on breaches that trust. The Ring puts you at ease so that you allow the performers to put you in darkness and witness acts of violence. Though the performance puts you on edge, Fuel manage to garner your trust and it is most definitely a thrilling experience.
The room of darkness becomes a social experiment constructed by the members of a circle, whom we quickly realise are totally separate from the physical audience. We are intended to join that circle and be a silent witness to an Alcoholics Anonymous style therapy group. Only hatred circles. Blame, violence, hurt, betrayal and cynicism flourish as the conversation takes us to different locations and asks us to imagine grisly details.
It’s interesting. However, I felt that the trust they masterfully manipulated me to give was underutilised. You catch on pretty quickly from the locations of the voices in the room that you are listening to actors, not the audience present, and that the scenario is totally fictional. You realise you are not surrounded by anything spontaneous and that you will never be called upon in any capacity. There is no threat to your person. It becomes a 50-minute performance where you listen to a high-drama fictional conversation that has no bearing on the time, place or people of the performance. After the initial excitement of wondering exactly how much I would give them whilst shrouded in darkness, I found this disappointing. Horror is underrepresented in theatre, yet is a genre most suited to reliance on imagination, where theatre flourishes.
There were clever choices throughout, from giving Michael a crutch so you could differentiate him from the others characters pacing around the room, to the way sound was thrown around in your ears. We the audience were faced in two halves opposite each other and asked to separate from those we came with. Programmes were only given out at the end and the mystery surrounding the promotion of the event only added to the excitement of attending. It didn’t throw the punch it needed to though. So while interesting and indeed compelling, I didn’t find it satisfying.
Conceived and Directed by: David Rosenberg
Author: Glen Neath
Music and Sound: Ben Ringham and Max Ringham
Box Office: 020 722 32223
Booking Until: 11 October 2014