Brighton Festival 2015
A young girl puts on her red cloak and heads into the forest, watched by unseen eyes. She begins to run, and so the hunt begins. Run or walk with us, and help to sniff out those who are hairy on the inside…
Burn the Curtain (The Adventures of Don Quixote by Bicycle, Brighton Festival 2013) turns Angela Carter’s macabre imagination into a spine-tingling outdoor experience. The tale unfolds as you progress along the route, which will be between two and five miles long, depending on which path you take.
What an exciting idea – running around Stanmer Park in the pitch dark on the hunt for a stolen bride being pursued by a pack of devilish wolves. This is the set up for Burn The Curtain’s production of Company of Wolves, an adaptation of the Angela Carter story of the same name.
We gather in the dusk by the church and are divided in companies of Hunters (who will run), and Gatherers (who will walk). We are then told that the wedding we have assembled for will have to be postponed, as the bride has been taken, possibly by wolves, so we must delve into the dangerous forest and hunt for the bride and kill the wolves. The hunters take off in one direction (at quite a lick), and the gatherers walk briskly into the woods.
What follows is a two and a half hour stomp around the beautiful and eerie park, as day turned into night. In the woods we meet characters who help to fill us in on the story, and from amongst the trees comes the grandmother’s voice, reminding us of the herbs we need to turn wolves back into men. The runners take a different path, and then halfway through we are reunited and furnished with cups of hot tea. We are told to compare notes with the runners and find out what they know, and let them know what we have discovered. It is then that I find there is something of a disparity in how much storytelling we have had as walkers, and how little the runners have received in comparison – leaving some of them feeling a little short changed.
The second half was definitely less interesting. Whilst there were some good moments, and the finale of the piece was well done, for a lot of the time I felt as though I was just walking in the dark, and there was little or no tension or drama being maintained. The people around me were catching up on life gossip, and often I missed the things the characters leading us were saying as I was towards the back of the group of walkers. It is one of the main problems with pieces of promenade theatre – maintaining the momentum and keeping the audience occupied and engaged throughout, and sadly Burn the Curtain didn’t quite get it right with this show.
It was a real shame, because the premise and the setting for this production was so wonderful. Had it been an hour or so in length, and if they had used a smaller area of the park for the ‘quest’, then all of the content could still have been easily divulged, and there would have been far fewer periods of walking along, being urged towards the ‘safety of the village’, when any sense of threat or excitement had long since diminished, and really we just wanted to get in the warm.