Barnstaple Theatrefest 2015
Almost Human’s second offering at this years fringe. They have created an audio-walk for four audience members to experience via headphones.
Four audience members gather outside the Queens theatre and are met by volunteers who assign us a role: The Archaeologist, The Tourist, The Local and the Flaneur. I opt for the Archaeologist (I’m told it’s an active role). We ahe a bit of trouble getting the track to play in sync but once we begin it is immediately exciting.
The softly spoken voiceover guide has a soothing European accent. She uses juicy words like ‘palimpsest’ when describing excavating the secrets of the town. The four audience members disperse at different times and we begin our own separate journeys.
The most effective site performances make you look at familiar surroundings with a new lense. Together does exactly that. As I am taken down a lane I’ve never noticed before, I can feel my senses becoming receptive to new experiences. I start to look, hear and feel in a more focused, attentive way. Suddenly the whole of Barnstaple becomes a stage; the people the performers, the architecture and scenery, the set. It feels electric.
The guide’s voice feels safe and trustworthy which contrasts nicely to the surprises along the way. For example, I hear a distant ‘click’ and turn around. I’m being stalked by The Tourist, wh is taking a photo of me with w disposable camera. The walk continues and I cross paths with other audience members, wondering what delights they are being shown on their journeys.
It all works seamlessly until it doesn’t. I’m given a phone and a number to ring. Nobody answers. I try again. Unsure of what to do, I am given no further instructoins until I’m eventually ushered on by a watchful performer. It breaks the magic for a moment but all is not lost. The final frame is majestic. I enter the empty pannier market which is grand in its sparsity. Here the audience are reunited and invited to sit at a table together. The show is over and we, who don’t all know each other, piece together our adventures and dicuss our different routes and tasks like old friends.
Though it’s the end, I feel like we’ve only just got going. Thirty minutes raced by. I could do this for hours. This is an amazingly well crafted lovely experience. The soundtrack used was also a highlight; from Goran Bregovic to Wim Wender’s Pina soundtrack. Almost Human have made a sensual, sensitive piece that will not fail to bring joy to those who are lucky enough to take part in this adventure.