RIFT’s Macbeth and Gruff Theatre

A few weeks ago I did something I didn’t think I would do, I attended an immersive theatre experience. I was seduced because a) it was Macbeth and b) I was going with 9 others so I felt comfortable knowing I could blend into the background should any actor try to get me involved in things. What is it they say about the best laid plans?

Firstly, let me mention that the production of Macbeth by RIFT was fantastic not least because the venue was the beautiful Brutalist structure known as Balfron Tower in East London. Proceedings started at 8pm Friday night and finished at 8am Saturday morning. However for the 12 hours we were there, it was a place called Borduria.

Yes, it was an overnight event but things drew to a close around 1.30am but if you really wanted to,  you could have left at midnight and caught the last DLR home but if you chose to do that you would have missed the wandering ghosts who appeared around 3.30am…a little puzzled to find me in the living room reading a book from Transform entitled, After the War on Drugs: Blueprint for Regulation. Well, what else is an insomniac supposed to do?

However this wasn’t just a fancy overnight version of Macbeth, there was a twist. There was, I think, a second layer to the production. There were, for want of a better term, a group of ‘crazies’ who performed a parallel story during the event. I say think because of the 10 of us, no one was exactly sure what was going on and we pretty much had 10 opinions on what we had seen.

To me, It was as if the ‘crazies’ were a group of Bordurian’s re-enacting the more gruesome bits of Macbeth and despite not being exactly sure what was going on at times, it was amazing.  They also doubled up as Macbeth’s hired thugs, which they did scarily well.

I’ve no idea if I was right or wrong and to be honest I’m not sure it matters but I think that sums up how good it was, we all experienced the same thing at the same time and we all had differing opinions and each one was as valid as the next.

I have to be honest, I developed a slight crush on 2 of the female ‘crazies’, that crush was cemented when they acted out their version of Lady Macbeth’s suicide in a dentist’s chair, with a little encouragement from yours truly, which led me to doing a little social media stalking to find out who they were in order to find out if they were in any other productions.

Find them I did and a quick tweet later I discovered they were actually a separate outfit called Gruff Theatre who had a play of their own in the pipeline, Instructionally Invited, which opened on Monday for a very limited 2 week run in The Space in East London. A glorious converted church.

Of the 10 of us who attended Macbeth I knew of at least 2 others who also thought the Gruff section of Macbeth was fantastic so tickets were booked for last night and we were not disappointed. It was totally bizarre, more than a little madcap and probably the most enjoyable 60 minutes I’ve had in a long time but I won’t lie, I was quite sad when it ended.

Thankfully I had a sneaky suspicion that I was going to enjoy it so I booked myself tickets for next week for fear that they’d sell-out and leave me even more disappointed, now of course I need to find someone who’ll join me next Tuesday nudge nudge email/tweet me if you’re up for it.

What I discovered from both Macbeth and Instructionally Invited is that I’m not as afraid of participation as I thought, far from it! In Macbeth I really enjoyed opening my big mouth to contribute and in last night’s performance of Instructionally Invited a lady I was sat beside asked me if I was part of the cast. I took that as a cue to shut up for a bit, but only a bit.

Worryingly I have now decided that I’d like to try some amateur dramatics and which led to the discovery that The Space hold regular workshops for the ridiculously low price of…whatever you can afford, with a suggested donation of £2…yes, £2 for 2 or 3 hours of instruction from a theatre professional!?

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve no illusions of a life on Broadway but it seems like a great outlet for the madcap world in my head. I happened to mention last night that I have various ‘voices’ I talk with (again, thanks insomnia) so bringing them to life sounds like a giggle!

If you have been wary of attending an immersive theatre production because you fear being dragged into performing then throw those fears away. Actors will only include you if you’re willing to be included and won’t be upset if you prefer to blend into the background and just observe.

Take it from me, it’s far from scary and you’re likely to find yourself hooked, a bit like am I!

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