Pros: Experimental work that successfully brings together live performance with the often solitary world of gaming.
Cons: Like marmite. Appeals to a niche market, particularly those with a competitive streak .
A House Repeated, created by Seth Kriebel – commissioned by Battersea Arts Centre (BAC) and part of A Nation’s Theatre – is an interactive performance-game. It invites participants to navigate a version of the building (or maze), exploring rooms, real and imagined, without ever leaving their seat. Placed firmly behind the wheel, participants must make sense of the world in which they find themselves, negotiating their way about the building, using nothing but logic, discussion and heaps of imagination.
The location for the performance couldn’t be better. Based in the old Committee Room, there is still a faint smell of smoke – reminiscing of a not so distant tragedy at the BAC – infused with the smell of cement and plaster from restoration work. These aromas play on the senses and go some way in helping to stimulate the imagination. (I always enjoy it when a piece of work, whatever form it takes, appears to make use of what is ‘left over’ or unavoidable – upcycling for theatre!)
It’s an intimate affair, with participants stacked facing each other across a narrow playing space. Those adjacent become your opponents, and the folks who sit beside you, your squaddies: you’ll spend the next 60 minutes agreeing and disagreeing with everybody in the room. Two performers – the ‘computers’ – each guide a team in their quest. Nobody quite seems to know what that quest is, so you find yourself living moment-by-moment, hoping things will become clear and praying you’ve not just said something that made you sound like a complete arse.
Those aforementioned performers are writer Kriebel and Zoe Bouras. Their sharp thinking and ability to manipulate the participants’ virtual movements is what glues the experience together. Part of the fun is also spotting the moments when they too appear to lose their whereabouts in the game. Astonishingly for me – someone with a memory like a sieve and no sense of direction – they always manage to stay one step ahead of their ‘playthings’.
Despite this experimental work being well executed, it didn’t really set my imagination on fire or do anything extraordinary. The concept is clever and good enough, but the content could be better developed. I also started to find the work a little laboured after a while and got restless. However, there were plenty of want-to-be-masterminds in the room who were enthralled within an inch of their lives, so maybe I’m getting grumpy in my old age.
A House Repeated is like marmite. If, like me, you abhor games, quizzes and puzzles, or anything of that ilk, you might feel a bit of an outsider. However, Game-Boy-wielding-fans-of-Knightmare will be in their element, along with those who enjoy activities of a cryptic nature. If you are part of the market this work appeals to, you should definitely book.
Author: Seth Kriebel
Performed and Devised by: Seth Kriebel and Zoe Bouras
Commissioned by and developed at: Battersea Arts Centre
Booking until: 24 October 2015
Box Office: 020 7223 2223
Booking Link: https://www.bac.org.uk/content/39510/whats_on/whats_on/shows/a_house_repeated