The performance graduate in me loves an immersive theatre production, so when the opportunity arose to join 27 Degrees’ latest offering, Behind Closed Doors in East London I jumped at the chance.
24 hours before the production I received an email asking me to check the audio link on my phone was working. I was informed that the production was designed to be an individual outdoor experience using my mobile phone and headphones. I was also told that the piece would be entirely outdoors and I would need to walk to a few locations (all within half a mile of the start/endpoint) and that I was able to bring an umbrella if it was raining, but to be aware of sightlines.
The link worked and 24 hours later my friend and I were stood on the steps of the Christ Church Spitalfields, just off Commercial Street in East London.
We are told the concept of the production is based on the Choose Your Own Adventure Series for children. The idea is that we listen to an audio track and then make a decision as to how we would like to progress our story. I absolutely loved those books as a teenager (although I did cheat and read a few pages ahead in case I didn’t like the route my choices were taking me) and loved the fact that everyone attending the piece could end up with a totally unique and different story. I was also told I could walk different stories, one after the other if I liked. Each story taking around 45 minutes.
We listened to our introduction, an elderly male voice tells us that the streets are filled with secrets and excitement and we can begin our journey, walking through the cobbled streets of East London, looking through windows and letterboxes as our characters narrative unfolds in front of us and in our ears.
Sadly, although the idea was first-rate, and the technology faultless, the stories that we were hearing were, to me, boring and uninspired. This was such as shame because we were walking through the streets of Whitechapel, in the dark, our voyeuristic heads on willing stories of vice, underground living, sin and secrets to be regaled, and the most action we had was from the “Jack The Ripper Tours” that were also taking place in the streets around us.
Now saying this, there are multiple options that you can take with this piece, and I may have just chosen badly, and all those themes were actually present. However, for me, I really struggled to understand my part in the piece. I didn’t understand who I was meant to be, there was nothing the piece asked of me, there was no commitment, no stakes at play and the narrative I was hearing just wasn’t interesting in the slightest.
At one point in the piece, we stumbled across a window that wasn’t assigned to us, which is such a shame because an artist portraying Martha Brown, was performing. She was enigmatic, provocative, engaging and we were desperate to hear her story, understand why she was there, but sadly she wasn’t in our strand.
All in all, if you are new to immersive theatre and site-specific pieces this is a gentle introduction that doesn’t call on you to do anything but walk, watch and listen. However, if you are hoping for a real glimpse behind the doors of the inhabitants of Whitechapel, then this production is definitely not for you.
Review by Faye Stockley
How well do you think you know your neighbours?
Behind closed doors is a site-specific theatrical experience accessible via mobile phone.
Inspired by choose-your-own-adventure books, this interactive audio show takes visitors through a labyrinth of stories: clues lead to different outdoor locations where audiences discover tales inspired by the lives of a small community. From comic to tragic, poetic to absurd, stories explore themes of intimacy, how neighbourhood stories connect and how strangers’ perceptions define us.
This project has been developed specifically to take place during the Covid-19 pandemic: the experience combines sound design, mobile technology, miniature art installations and socially-distant performances behind house windows.
Script, direction, set design and production: 27 degrees: Chusi Amoros, Marie Klimis, Dajana Trtanj
Sound design: Nicola T Chang
Installations design: Baśka Wesołowska
Animation design: Jorge Rojo
Voice over actors: David Bonnick Jr, Richard Evans-Thomas, Jess-Luisa Flynn, Simon Rivers, Constanza Ruff, Annabelle Whitehead
Live cast: Florencia Cordeu, Stanley Karikari, Gaël Le Cornec, Aidan Morris, Lee Payne, Mai Nguyen Tri