The performance graduate in me loves an immersive theatrical production, so when the opportunity arose to join 27 Degrees’ latest offering, Behind closed doors in East London, I jumped at the chance.
24 hours before production, I received an email asking me to verify that my phone’s audio link was working. I was informed that the production was designed to be a one-on-one outdoor experience using my cell phone and headphones. I was also told that the room would be entirely outside and that I would have to walk in a few places (all within half a mile of the start / end point) and that I could bring an umbrella s ‘It was raining, but to be aware of lines of sight.
The link worked and 24 hours later my friend and I were standing on the steps of Christ Church Spitalfields, just off Commercial Street in East London.
We are told that the concept of production is based on the Choose your own series of adventures for kids. The idea is that we listen to an audio track and then decide how we would like to move our story forward. I loved these books as a teenager (even though I cheated and read a few pages ahead in case I didn’t like the route my choices were taking me) and loved the fact that everyone who attended the play could end up with a very unique and different story. I was also told that I could tell different stories, one after the other if I wanted. Each story lasts approximately 45 minutes.
We listened to our introduction, an elderly male voice telling us that the streets are filled with secrets and excitement and that we can start our journey by walking the cobbled streets of East London, looking through the windows and mailboxes as our characters’ stories unfold before us and in our ears.
Unfortunately, while the idea was top notch and the technology flawless, the stories we heard were, to me, boring and uninspired. It was so shameful because we were walking the streets of Whitechapel, in the dark, our voyeuristic heads on willful tales of vice, underground life, sin and secrets to feast on, and the most action we have. had was from “Jack the Ripper visitsWhich also took place in the streets around us.
Now, in saying that, there are several options you can take with this piece, and maybe I chose wrong, and all of those themes were actually there. However, for me, I really struggled to understand my role in the play. I didn’t understand who I was meant to be, there was nothing the play asked for, there was no commitment, no stake involved and the narrative I was hearing just wasn’t interesting from the all.
At one point in the play, we came across a window that was not assigned to us, which is a real shame as an artist representing Martha Brown was performing. She was enigmatic, provocative, engaging and we were desperate to hear her story, to understand why she was there, but unfortunately she was not on our side.
Overall, if you’re new to immersive theater and site-specific plays, this is a smooth introduction that doesn’t invite you to do anything other than walk, watch, and listen. However, if you are hoping for a real glimpse behind the gates of the people of Whitechapel, then this production is definitely not for you.
Comment from Faye Stockley
Do you think you know your neighbors well?
Behind Closed Doors is a site-specific theatrical experience accessible via a mobile phone.
Inspired by adventure books to choose from, this interactive audio show takes visitors through a maze of stories: clues lead to different outdoor locations where audiences discover tales inspired by the life of a small community. From the comic to the tragic, from the poetic to the absurd, the stories explore themes of intimacy, how neighborhood stories connect and how the perceptions of strangers define us.
This project was developed specifically to take place during the Covid-19 pandemic: the experience combines sound design, mobile technology, miniature art installations and socially distant performances behind the windows of houses.
Script, direction, scenography and production: 27 degrees: Chusi Amoros, Marie Klimis, Dajana Trtanj
Sound design: Nicola T Chang
Plant design: BaÅka WesoÅowska
Animation design: Jorge Rojo
Voice over actors: David Bonnick Jr, Richard Evans-Thomas, Jess-Luisa Flynn, Simon Rivers, Constanza Ruff, Annabelle Whitehead
Live cast: Florencia Cordeu, Stanley Karikari, GaÃ«l Le Cornec, Aidan Morris, Lee Payne, Mai Nguyen Tri