Pros: A truly immersive environment, the use of space and attention to detail cannot be faulted.
Cons: True to the story’s dreamlike style, it’s difficult not to feel a little dazed and confused.
An eerie tale, Tara D’Arquian’s Quests has found itself a fitting home in the labyrinthine rooms of Greenwich’s historic Borough Hall. This is the second instalment of the In Situ trilogy, which explores themes of human longing, loss and conflict. I was unsure what to expect from a piece so far removed from traditional theatre. I’m still not certain where I ended up in this odd story of haunting memories and disarming dreams, but I certainly enjoyed the journey.
Quests presents the story of a stage director struggling with his sanity after his wife goes missing. Utilising every inch of space in the venue’s transformed halls, the audience walks in and out of his dreams, memories and reality, as he battles inner demons to prepare the performance his producer is adamantly pushing for. As he deals with his personal issues they seep through into his work, blurring the line between reality and creation. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what was going on most of the time, but for me this only added to the hazy consciousness of the piece: slipping seamlessly in and out of reality, I felt just as lost as the central character.
After settling into the scattered seats that surrounded a central platform in the 1920s club, we watched as the protagonist’s life began to unravel, and the story spiralled into the surreal. The live band slowly packed up and left, we were called by a doctor, and then ushered through the many rooms that tell this story. It was here that Yann Seabra’s use of space and attention to detail shone. Wandering around the somewhat ghostly sets, we were able to read hotel entries from the night his wife disappeared, and letters she had written to herself. Even when the performance had ended we were thanked by porters from the fictional hotel, which created a truly immersive experience.
With much of the story drifting in and out of dreams, most of the characters were cemented in reality. However, three ethereal figures were ominously present throughout. Their garb added to their otherworldly vibe, and helped to make them the most creepily intriguing part of the piece. Fencing masks adorned with flowers covered their faces as they slunk about the space, often getting a little too close for comfort, hissing in the ears of the audience. They held a striking resemblance to the Furies; three infernal goddesses of vengeance, they torment the protagonist, representing the inner demons that are causing him so much pain. Their haunting presence was for me the most powerful part of the show.
Adding to the sinister mood that these characters promoted, some of the spaces we passed through were a little jarring. Walking past a ‘Fury’ disturbingly rocking an empty, bloodstained pram was one such instance. These occasions certainly added to that confusing dreamlike quality, but I was left a bit frustrated that I didn’t quite get how they fit in. Perhaps it would have made more sense if I had seen the first part of the trilogy. In the same uncomfortable vein, there were also instances where the audience wasn’t quite sure where to go next, making for some uneasy moments – but this seemed intentional and certainly added to the peculiar tone.
Feeling totally engrossed by a performance, with no concrete understanding of what was happening was certainly a first for me. The strange, almost nightmarish quality of the piece is perhaps not for everyone, but if you’re looking for an immersive night of escapism, then D’Arquian’s work is for you. The team has managed to perfectly capture the essence of dreaming on stage.
Choreographer and Artistic Director: Tara D’Arquian
Producer: Greenwich Dance
Set and Costume Designer: Yann Seabra
Booking Until: 20 February 2016
Box Office: 0208 293 9741
Booking Link: http://greenwichdance.org.uk/dance/event/tara_darquian_quests/