Do you want to be scared? Of course you do, it is October the spookiest month of the year! If the threat of Brexit happening/not happening isn’t doing it for you then maybe you need something more intense.
Inspired by Ghost Stories and Last Orders I felt an urge to see what immersive theatre had to offer horror fans. I went to the respected and ever innovative Colab Factory for Silence, a ghost story that throws you into the darkness.
I foolishly took my jumpy friend, who leaped into the air at the scene changes in Appropriate at the Donmar Warehouse, which was a story about how horrifying white people can be but not a traditional horror story. This was either going to be fun or a complete disaster.
The audience meet outside, with a few health and safety notes, there is even a safe word (“Pineapples). Is this a horror show or some 50 Shades sex club? Once inside we are greeted by cocktails (a choice of alcoholic and non-alcoholic but as an Aperol h8er this was probably my least favourite aspect) by Rev. Stanley Parks. His radio is picking up some weird noises and in his search to find out where these noises are coming from he has called you in (via the church noticeboard) to help him exorcise the ghost that seems to be haunting him. Putting aside that I am not entirely sure you can exorcise a ghost (surely you exorcise a person who has a spirit in them…anyway) what follows in an investigation half the group go down to the site of the mysterious death whilst the rest wait upstairs to investigate.
As great as the actor playing the Reverend is there is a sense of chaos. We are left to our devices unsure what we are looking for. Plus there is a clear spoiler early on that gives away the Reverend’s role in the story but if that isn’t picked up on then the ending seems confusing and abrupt).
It also feels bit rushed. There are two shows per night and only 90 minutes long. For example the space is vast, which in a longer show would be a plus but there is no time to explore here. Couples often got lost, the walkie talkies that were meant to guide people in the space didn’t work so who am I meant to say this safe word to? The torches weren’t plentiful and it wasn’t geared to an audience member who might want to come alone.
When in the space there was one ghost, who managed to travel well and was scary but it needs a bigger cast and a story that can incorporate that. At the moment it all feels cheap and at times dull. The audience is too guided to find the weapon, victim and murderer whereas if there was more time people could explore the resources and set better without assistance.
As a work in progress this has a lot of potential but it is following the hugely successful The Great Gatsby, which has moved to the West End and people have high expectations of immersive productions, even if the ticket is only £15-£20. I hope this has a future with a longer running time and more options and actors to play with because it could become a Halloween tradition with the right focus. Colab know people are willing to pay more for immersive experiences; take advantage.
Silence is on until 10 November (various times) https://www.colabtheatre.co.uk/silence