Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Masque of the Red Death

Clearly, the best theatre ever. But also the worst. Yes, they've completely turned Battersea Arts Centre into a vast promenade performance space of unbelievable gothic imagination and fantasy.

But... well, it's not even in Battersea. This is the last time I go to South London for my art, unless in a taxi. In my book, standing for half an hour in the middle of nowhere, lashed by rain waiting for a bus does not count as part of the mis-en-scene. It's just grim.

It did guarantee that I turned up at the theatre panicked and bewildered - which was just the mood for Masque of the Red Death. The show was amazing - it was like being let loose on a museum where you could touch things.

Occasionally, some lithe people would run past and do some theatre, but it was mostly physical theatre of the kind involving shrieking, handstands, and eating apples loudly while saying "Fie!". You know the drill... If you're a girl - Drape yourself around something, pretend to hump it, smile and show all your teeth. If you're a boy, and can manage to look lascivious while crawling across the floor, then great. Otherwise, throw liquid around. Or carry a knife. Whatever.

Happily, most of the time you were left alone to potter around, open drawers, nose about, or stroke the cat.

The whole thing was quite, quite beautiful, and endless. Like another world perfectly evoked. You could climb endless stairs to emerge in a nursery where all you could hear was distant crying, or turn a corner and find yourself about to wander on stage at the Palais Royale. My favourite was finding a room full of drying laundry. I pulled down a sheet, sat still in a chair, and waited for people to come in. Just as they were leaving, I'd move. They'd scream and run out. This passed half an hour.

It really was an amazing dream world, and proves that while history isn't how actors think it was, it's certainly more fun. It did help that the male cast were v pretty dancers and knew it, which kind of made it like watching Emo Kids at a Jake Shears convention.

I think I only stumbled across three of the stories - but I did find a door that said "Knock if you're lucky". I knocked. The door opened. A figure in a peacock mask opened it and shook her head at me. I turned a corner, and found myself in a giant ballroom made out of trees, where an undead couple were getting married to the "Batman Returns" theme.

No comments: