Review: Macbeth – RIFT – Secret Location, London

An in depth review of RIFT’s – Macbeth

#Tweetingit – review in 140 characters – 5* An incredible, overnight, immersive experience in Borduria; a place where, once you have been, you’ll definitely want to visit again.

macbeth 2

Macbeth doth murder sleep

24 hours ago, I left the RIFT which had opened near a tower block in East London. I was dazed, confused and pretty tired. I was leaving with 100 Bordurian (pounds ?) in my pocket, dual nationality; having received my Bordurian passport on arrival, one of my own dark thoughts written on a piece of paper and the overwhelming urge to have a yak’s milk latte. I had just spent the last 13 hours at Balfron Tower, desperately trying to keep a grasp on reality, immersed in the newest RIFT production – Macbeth.

Can I buy anything with Bordurian money outside of the RIFT?
Can I buy anything with Bordurian money outside of the RIFT?

Macbeth takes place around this atmospheric abandoned tower block where RIFT have created a fantasy-fictional space; a mixture of a dystopian and utopian world where you question whether you are awake or asleep. Never just a neutral spectator, you may have your hands washed by a witch, end up spooning with Lady Macbeth, be complicit in murder after being asked to wash away the blood from the bathroom or, like me, do something random like teach a porter to curtsy. All of this is completed with all the usual Macbeth themes; betrayal, lies and plenty of blood. But unlike any other adaptation which you may have seen, we are here for the night – a Macbeth sleepover.

Do you remember the last sleepover you had? My last one was when I was about 12. We did the usual girly things but part of it included writing letters to one another… about the people in the room; betrayal – tick. When someone who wasn’t supposed to read them, did, I am sure I must’ve told them that it wasn’t meant in the way it was written; lies – tick. Then we played Zombies, running around a dark house playing a game similar to hide and seek until someone ran into a wall and cut their head open; blood – tick. So I felt pretty ready for my Macbeth sleepover, “visceral experience.” However, it was more than I could ever have prepared for.

WP_20140706_003

Arriving at Balfron Tower, you are greeted by the Border Control – headed up by Uri – to be processed ready to go through the RIFT. Having received your passport, Uri escorts you and your eight other theatre flatmates, to the place where the RIFT has opened and here the play begins. Walking through a dank underground carpark, in almost complete darkness except for a fire at the end of the passage, I am grabbed by the hand by a witch and led ahead of the others toward the fire. We, alongside Banquo and Macbeth encounter the witches for the first time. Surprisingly, they are speaking Shakespeare’s words – I had expected a modernisation of the speeches but you soon begin to realise they have stuck to the text fairly closely. Yes, there is some necessary adlibbing as the audience chat to the characters, alongside some additional scripted sections too but the classic speeches are all still there. People who don’t like “modern versions” of Shakespeare will probably still appreciate this as it’s not an interpretation, set on a spaceship or any of those other bizarre adaptations, it’s just a more intimate, intense, immersive restyling of the classic.

I now have dual nationalisty Bordurian.British
I now have dual nationality Bordurian/British

After meeting the witches, the play continues around the building. We are carefully led around by our fabulous guide, Piotr, played by David Loumgair, who I cannot praise enough. The Bordurian guides are not just there to shoo you between rooms; they are part of the whole set up. They get to know everyone’s names and what they are like, they encourage you to get to know each other, they ensure you are topped up with a glass of wine whenever possible but they also watch the drama unfold with you; genuinely shocked at what is unfolding before them and eventually they get conscripted into the army. Their role must be incredibly difficult given that they have to rigorously maintain their Bordurian accent and established character for the entirety of the night’s performance. Piotr did all of this to perfection. Given the crucial nature of the guides’ role, your experience will be uniquely affected by the guide you are paired with.

When the story is unfolding so close to you, the acting has to be perfect and this was most certainly the case; every single person in the cast was excellent. There are three sets of cast members so I can only speak for the ones I saw. Macbeth (Matthew Neal) made for an excellent protagonist and the fight scenes were perfectly choreographed by Yarit Dor. Lady Macbeth (Elly Condron) was particularly good during her sleepwalking scene – although earlier in the production when she wasn’t mad, some of her movements and facial expressions seemed a little over-the-top considering we were so close to the action rather than watching from an auditorium.

RIFT-MACBETH1-630x310

The moment of the evening for me was the killing of Lady MacDuff (Louise Torres-Ryan) and her child. This was the only time we saw her but she managed to utilise the intimacy of the space perfectly to produce a “hushed row” of utmost intensity that was powerful without being over-the-top. At the argument’s apex I found myself in the centre of the encounter as Lady MacDuff was overpowered by the scariest looking man I have ever seen. In the corner was the bloodied, beaten body of her child. It was horrifying and genuinely made me gasp, to the point where I was relieved when Piotr, concerned for our safety, removed us from the situation .

Macbeth and Lady MAcbeth (complete with our guide, Piotr in the background at the bar)
Macbeth and Lady Macbeth (complete with our guide, Piotr in the background at the bar)

Logistically, this show is extremely difficult. All of the 90 participants need to experience everything. This isn’t a show where, depending where you are, dictates what you see. As a result, there are times when you are left to watch the TV in your flat to fill the gap when the actors are not actually with you. The first occasion was a program about Urivision – a competition to become fictional and enter the RIFT. This was funny at first but was quite farcical and dragged on a bit long. We also watched some breaking news about the war and a loop of the Bordurian military climbing the stairs while the war was being fought in each room. At midnight, when we were all so tired, this was also a little long. However, this isn’t the overwhelming thing that I have taken away from it and you soon wake up when the drama begins again.

As the war comes to an end, you are taken to the bar to see the victorious King Malcolm and at this point – around 1:30 – you can either go to bed or continue partying with the hard-core theatregoers until 2am, when the bar closes. You are then left to sleep until around 8am when you can go to the roof for breakfast and to see the stunning and unique views of the city.

The detail to which the RIFT team have gone with this production is admirable; the bar, the restaurant, the flats where the composition takes place, all of which have been impressively decked out with no detail left unturned. Pickled onions in the bar, Scottish-based books in the living room and a picture of the current King in every room you enter.

View from the top.
View from the top.

One of the only things I would change would be to suggest they invest in a tea urn in Borduria for late in the evening – I knew if I had another glass of wine I would drop off but a cup of tea would’ve been great.

Unfortunately, Macbeth is sold out, but if more dates are added, get those tickets. Not only will you see something truly unique, you will also behold the fabulous morning views of London from the roof of the tower during breakfast. This production has been put together with such care and meticulous attention to detail while every actor displays consummate professionalism throughout and eminently talented. However, it will not be for everyone – some people won’t be up for 12-hours of theatre. However, being in the RIFT, in the intense world of Macbeth, is one of the most exhilarating experiences that theatre can produce. RIFT are true masters of site-specific immersive theatre and I have no doubt that this is going to go down in immersive theatre history alongside Punchdrunk’s Drowned Man.

Finally – next time I go on holiday, perhaps I won’t be mentioning anything to passport control about my dual nationality. Maybe I did lose my grasp on reality after all but at least I didn’t get torn apart by the RIFT or lose a limb.

Please see https://playhousepickings1.wordpress.com/2014/07/06/dos-and-donts-of-going-through-the-rift-macbeth/ for some suggested Do’s and Don’ts of going through Macbeth

Writer: William Shakespeare

Directors: RIFT – Felix Mortimer and Joshua Nawras

Adaption: Thomas McMullan,Gruff

Producers: Natasha Phillips, Dominique Bull,Bertie Watkins, Francesca Duncan, Tilly Fletcher, Annie Jenkins

Designers:Jasper Sutherland, Fern Blevins, David Myers, Barnabus Ianni, Florence Hazard, Eloisa Henderson-Figeuroa, Isabelle Carreira, Anna-Louise Hale, Tom Coxon, Simmone Klein, Andy Broadhurst ,Ashleigh Latter, Rebecca Hallen

Soundtrack: Sami El-Enany

Lighting:Matthew Vile

Film: Balan Evans,  Adlib Films, Guido Cavaciuti

Fight direction: Yarit Dor

Do’s and Dont’s of going through the RIFT Macbeth

How to make it through the RIFT in one piece…

‘Tweetingit – post in 140 characters – Want to survive the RIFT? Just a few tips from someone who (just about) made it out alive

macbeth

 

Dos and Don’ts of The Rift – Macbeth

  • Do put some effort into your passport. Don’t worry, you are not going to be picked on for writing something interesting, it just makes passport control more fun.
  • Do get to know your theatre family. It is a long evening with times where you are left on your own in your flat. If you don’t chat to one another, it is going to be an even longer night and particularly uncomfortable when you bed down together.
  • Don’t eat any of the skinny peppers unless you have plenty of water in front of you or are fond of a vindaloo. I was nominated to test them to see if they were hot, the first one was just a sweet red pepper. I dove in, grabbed the green one – which promptly blew my head off.
  • Do chat to the cast members when prompted. When you’re in the bar, it is usually a time to relax and natter to your group, the actors in there and you guide. Make the most of it. It really creates a fun atmosphere – a wonderful juxtaposition to the murder and tension you’re about to witness.
  • Don’t be uptight. Relax, lose your grasp on reality and have fun. For much of the evening, you are almost a passive participant and so if a witch grabs your hand or you are moved into a room to hide, go with it. I promise, nothing scary is going to happen. If you are one of the few who is led off for one reason or another, it will be for a very short time and you won’t miss a thing. You’ll also not be put in any uncomfortable situations (unless you end up in bed with Lady Macbeth that is) there are no blind folds, no bags on heads and no-one hiding in the cupboards.
  • Do take a bottle of water for the night. Unless your RIFT family have finished a glass of wine or other beverage while in your flat and left the glass behind, you’ll struggle to find a receptacle to drink from.
  • Don’t forget to go to the loo before you get there. There are no toilets when you arrive and you’ll have to wait until you get to your flat to go. There will also not be many opportunities to smoke. My tip would be to wait until the siege. You will be spending a long time watching the Breaking News on the TV – this is the perfect time to head outside, look at the stunning view across London and have a sneaky fag.
  • Do eat something before you go – especially if you don’t like borscht. I was pleasantly surprised by dinner and would now happily have it again (maybe Uri – the border controller – can get me the recipe) If you are a hardcore carnivore or used to a big meal, you will want to take a sneaky snack in your bag for before bed.
  • Don’t wear skinny jeans or anything you’ll be uncomfortable sleeping in. Many of my group had been sensible and brought with them some PJ bottoms to change into.
  • Do get caffeinated – it’s a long evening and you don’t want to start to wane, miss anything or not enjoy it because you’re too tired.
  • Don’t have anything too strenuous planned the following day, you will be tired. You will not be up for mountain climbing or entering the Brain of Britain
  • Do be prepared to be cut off from the outside world. I managed to keep hold of my phone (sorry Uri) so I could call home to say I was safe when I went to bed. However, you’re supposed to hand it over to be locked away and they will try to persuade you to do so (so if you want to contact home before bed, take a tablet or other device with WiFi for this purpose.

AND FINALLY

  • Do enjoy it. There is nothing like this experience anywhere else and if you are one of those lucky few who have managed to get themselves a ticket, make the most of it. And if you haven’t managed to get a ticket, make sure you do for the next RIFT production.

See the full review here: https://playhousepickings1.wordpress.com/2014/07/06/review-macbeth-rift-secret-location-london/

 

News: Overnight Macbeth? Tonight at an undisclosed location

Rift – Macbeth

#Tweeting it – the premise in 140 characters – An audience immersed into Shakespeare’s classic for a full 12 hours in a secret location? Anything could happen

building

“OVERNIGHT MACBETH?” This is the reaction I have had from nearly everyone when I have told them about this new ground-breaking production of one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays by RIFT.
We will be immersed, for 13 and a half hours, in a disused tower block somewhere in east London – I, as yet, do not know exactly where I am bedding down tonight.
This undisclosed location will play host to this “visceral experience” where we, the participants, will feast with the Macbeths, meet the witches in an underground car park and sleep (for at least some of the evening) on the 27th floor.

Writers and Directors Felix Mortimer and Joshua Nawras are known for their remarkable productions such as O Brave New World and a one-to-one retelling of Kafka’s The Trial which was told across four locations.

A little bit of me is scared about the prospect of a 12 hour performance, what on earth kind of state will I be in tomorrow? But it is also very exciting; will I be confided in about a plot to kill someone, will Lady Macbeth befriend me before going crazy or will I be woken in a strange location by the ghost of Banquo? However, the idea of waking up to the London skyline and having breakfast while discovering whether the battle has been lost or won something which I am very much looking forward to.
A review will follow (although, I may be in a dazed state in the morning so I can’t guarantee how clear it’ll be….the website says you will leave questioning ideas of space and status; dystopia and utopia; waking and sleeping so along with the sleep deprivation – even though you do have time to sleep, I can’t see that it will be good sleep – my review could be …interesting)

More information: http://macbeth.in/collections/macbeth

Rhiannon Reflects on…immersive theatre

#Tweetingit – Rhiannon’s reflections in 140 characters

Immersive theatre – however we got so immersed, give it a go, there’s something out there for everyone

I blame Deirdre Rachid. What was is about that storyline that got the nation so riled up and wanting to actually get involved in the show?

Over the last decade or so, we have been given control over all forms of entertainment which we partake in. We vote for the next pop stars, the next person to appear on the Royal Variety Show, what dish someone is going to have cooked for them or the outcome of a storyline on a soap. Computer games “remember” the decisions you make and these decisions affect what experience the player has in the next edition of that game.

Just like in these games, in immersive theatre, everyone can have a different experience depending on how much is expected from them and how much they are willing to put into it. Every person who plays these games, has a slightly different experience.

Has it been decided, or have we decided, that we must have control, some sort of interaction, over the entertainment we are enjoying? We must be completely immersed in it, we can’t just sit back and watch what is going on in front of us.

When I was younger, there were much more simple versions of this immersive style -“pick your adventure” books – “turn to page 15 if you want to take the blue drink, turn to page 84 for the red one.” And then the drama unfolds depending on your choice. I was always concerned, however, that the more exciting option was available on the other route. Is this the problem with immersive theatre too? What if you choose “incorrectly” and you don’t see the best. Would it be better for a writer to tell you what the “right” option is and let you experience it?

Now, I have to say, I love immersive theatre and, in my book, there isn’t enough of it, but I do understand why some people don’t. You never know what you’re going to be faced with, how much you will be expected to do or to what extent you will be immersed. Youmebumbumtrain have done a show where you are the star; going around the rooms on your own and experiencing various different situations; being interviewed, running an exercise class, getting thrust into a working kitchen. What is the theme, the story, the point? What if the situation you are faced with, completely throws you?

I guess it depends on the type of immersion you experience.

Immer_city immersed their audience in their show, Wyrd, weeks before the “real” performance began. Facebook and Twitter profiles were set up for the characters, “pre show” events such as hen and stag do’s as well as false websites with clues about what you were going to experience. And then on the day, the performance began in the pub, meeting the cast to have your palms read, learning the backgrounds of each of the characters – if you were willing to question them.

wyrd

It wasn’t necessary to have read everything or even to throw yourself in at the deep end and join in fully in the performance, but it certainly helped and really made for a fantastic couple of weeks of entertainment.

My review of Wyrd: http://the-void.co.uk/theatre/wyrd-487/

http://www.immer-city.com/wp/

The Drowned Man has been incredibly well received but there are still a handful of people who just don’t get it – possibly not helped by the fact that one person might say that they were involved in a naked rave, that they found the roof top bar, that they were hurried away into a caravan to watch someone put their make up on.…. and yet what did you see? None of this? How can you possibly have got the same experience, did you miss some of the show, something important which made the whole thing make sense?

Some immersive/promenade shows just ask you to walk around and look into theatre spaces and watch what is unfolding. The immersive bit here is just that you are moving around. This was the case at St Pauls Church in Covent Garden where Iris Theatre put on various shows including “Alice in Wonderland” and “Julius Caesar”

My review of Julius Caesar : http://everything-theatre.co.uk/2013/07/julius-caesar-st-pauls-church.html

http://www.iristheatre.com/

So what are we in for next, how can these companies go even further? Upcoming immersive shows include an overnight performance of Macbeth where the audience get to eat with the Macbeths, sleep in their rooms and watch as the story unfolds overnight. Rehearsals have begun and everyone who is going has started to receive their passports for the event. There are still some tickets left and I truly think this is going to be one of the most interesting immersive shows that there has been for sometime. Get your tickets before its too late. http://macbeth.in/collections/Macbeth and follow them with #RiftMacbeth on Twitter.

Also, part of the Festival of Theatre (LIFT 2014) is  “Roof”. Occupying a purpose-built ‘panoramic performance space’ on top of the car park opposite the National Theatre, it has been conceived by the mastermind of the incredibly successful “Ring”, David Rosenberg. Ring used clever panoramic headphones to create an incredibly unique  and almost  hallucinogenic experience, and set completely in the dark. Roof is set to be just as exciting.

My review of “Ring” http://www.whatsonstage.com/off-west-end-theatre/reviews/03-2013/ring_868.html

So back to the start of this reflection, to explain my first comment. I don’t know when this immersive theatre malarkey began. What it with Deirdre Rashid going to prison in 1998 in Coronation Street? “Free Deirdre” placards and protests being carried out by viewers. They wanted to get completely involved, have a say in what happened and immerse themselves in the storyline. Have we created this phenomena of immersive theatre ourselves?

deirdre-rachid

Some people think theatre is becoming “too immersive” whatever that means. I have to say, I disagree. There is still plenty of “straight” theatre out there if that’s what you want and you needn’t attend these sorts of shows if they aren’t for you. Don’t like ballet? Don’t go. This is exactly the same – just another genre of theatre. As I said, I absolutely love immersive/promenade theatre and think everyone should at least give it a couple of tries. I cannot wait for my next installment (Rift’s Macbeth)

Let me know what you think.