Immersive theatre is one of the most difficult to describe in a review. Probably more than any other type of theatrical production, immersive theatre is exceptionally personal to the person experiencing it. So it is with the latest immersive theatre show to hit London, but I will try my best to give you an idea of what it is like to live through The White Plague at the Landor Space.
Things start off nice and gently when you arrive and are given a name tag which describes something about you – mine was ‘mauve jumper – and then go up the stairs to receive your opening briefing and whiteout goggles. Ah yes, this performance is experienced with the loss of your sight. The premise is that a mysterious and contagious virus which causes the population to go blind starts to spread. The government panics – as they often do – and takes immediate action by locking all the affected populace into an internment camp. And that’s really all I can tell you about the plot.
Written & Directed by Alexander Raptotasios with an English translation by Gul Y. Davis, The White Plague is a really intriguing piece of theatre that throws the audience into the centre of a major crisis whilst removing one of the five senses that enable them to understand and cope with the world around them. It’s a fascinating idea and works pretty well. Normal walking is impossible and in fact, the lack of sight even affected the way I sat. Discussing it with another audience member afterwards, we both talked about how we were afraid to move our feet or do any of those little movements that you normally do when watching a show.
The story that you take part in is very well performed by the cast – Graham Naiken, Michal Keyamo, Ninaz Khodaij, Paul Croft and Pete Losasso – who can only convey what is happening by their voices and do so extremely well. There are other elements that add to the realism of the production but I will let you find them for yourselves. I liked the fact that Alexander Raptotasios introduced unexpected elements to the well-structured and very taut story. There were times, he veered away from an obvious route and changed your opinion of a particular character or took an element down an unexpected route. I really liked the open ending, enabling the audience to decide where things went from that point forward.
Overall, I had an interesting time with The White Plague. Although I had a rough idea from the website of what was going to happen, I was taken by surprise by many elements of the production and the story itself. The show was slightly less immersive than I thought it would be but it was still extremely well done and the immersive elements definitely helped set the scene and make the overall scenario very realistic.
As with all of these type of shows, I ended up considering what would have happened if this had been a real event rather than a theatrical production. Whilst the government’s actions seemed extreme, what other choices were available to them? As for life in the internment camp, how would that have turned out? As fear takes over, how would people react, how would I react? Would I turn out to be a hero or a coward and in this case, which is more useful to me and the population as a whole – and should I even worry about the others?
I’m not promising you will find all the answers in this show but what you will get from The White Plague is a very interesting and enjoyable theatrical experience that will stay with you for a long time.
Review by Terry Eastham
Rewritten and recast specifically for London, THE WHITE PLAGUE imagines a city beset by a fiercely contagious blindness epidemic, sweeping through the population and leading to the containment of the infected in unprepared quarantine facilities. The inmates of these facilities develop their own dysfunctional communities, increasingly built on discrimination and exploitation, with basic needs and even communication between them becoming a struggle.
THE WHITE PLAGUE follows five of the infected, left to survive in these inhumane conditions until a woman attempts to lead them to freedom. For this uniquely immersive production, the audience is placed right at the heart of the action, experiencing the story through every sense but their sight. Sharing the ‘white blindness’ of the characters by wearing specially designed masks, audiences will hear, feel and even smell the action as it unfolds around them.
Sat 7-Sun 22 April 2018
Ferodo Bridges presents the UK premiere of
THE WHITE PLAGUE
Written & Directed by Alexander Raptotasios
Landor Space, 70 Landor Road, London SW9 9PH