Brighton Festival 2016
Amidst a barren landscape, a neon light stands bleak and stark. Welcome to The Last Resort. For those brave enough to return to this long deserted resort, beauty, science fiction and history merge to create a unique outdoor experience.
Wearing headphones, you and a partner will embark on a journey along a desolate stretch of beach to rediscover a fantastical reality. Why do transmissions from the past interrupt this guided tour? Why did those that came to this resort never leave?
Using bin-aural technology to create a constantly shifting world of sound, artists Rachel Champion and Tristan Shorr have created an exciting immersive work that takes a wry look at science fiction traditions and dystopian societies.
Prior to visiting The Last Resort, you are sent an email briefing you on the protocol for your trip down to earth, with much complicated language describing the precise way in which you will be able to spend time on the contaminated earth’s surface. It sets the scene, leaves you under no illusions that this is a sci fi show, and is a bit overlong, and I wonder how many people do read it all.
The show then consists of a guided audio tour along the bleak stretch of beach fronting Shoreham Harbour, with (when I was there), the dead calm misty sea to the south, and an industrial wasteland rearing ominously behind us. You and a partner are shrouded in hazmat-esque ponchos and vinyl gloves, and follow the audio instructions to various points along the way.
Here we learnt about this fabulous resort that was built on the coast of a failing Britain, where vast theme park rides thrilled guests, as the i360 was transformed into a ride catering for 10,000 people at a time. We are given laminated cards to hold up to help us get an idea of what it may have looked like.
As the show progresses, we learn that all may not be as it seems and there is a sinister background to the seemingly happy resort.
In many ways the show is interesting and innovative – asking its audience to re-imagine a familiar scene and see it in a new light. The voice in your ear gives you instructions in the same tone as a museum audio tour, and you feel as though you are in a sinister and sanitized world, where the Off World Corp actually controls your every move and encounter.
The use of binaural technology works best when it asks us to lie down and listen to the sounds of one of the rides, and when we walk along the road, and hear the sounds of passing cars and lorries roaring past us – some of which are real and some eerily fake. At other times I think they could have done more with the form, playing with other sounds when we were looking out over seascapes etc.
There are elements to the show which feel a little rushed – when you discover the ‘secret’ of the resort you are presented with far too much information to read in the allotted time, which is quite frustrating. There are also elements to the story which didn’t quite gel for me – why are we travelling back to The Last Resort, yet looking at the landscape of 2016, before it was built. There are complicated explanations for this in the pre-visit blurb I am sure, but they were quite impenetrable for the quick read I was able to give them.
I always like a show that overlays the familiar with something new, which this piece manages to achieve. They create a world to which you can commit and which is fun and sinister at the same time – forcing you to consider who you are, and what you may have done to get there.