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Piccadilly Car Park, York

Baba Yaga
5.0Reviewer's Rating

“Lisa is running from someone, or something. Who, or what it is, she can’t quite tell. All she knows is that in the daytime it lurks around every corner, and at night it leaps through her dreams.”

This experience was unlike any performance I’ve ever witnessed. No theatre, no actors, no set, props or costume. Just you, a specifically designed app and a pair of headphones. On the unique app designed especially for this performance, a 30 minute audio file plays in which Lisa’s story unfolds within your imagination. The audio instructs you to move around the abandoned car park in order to create a promenade, sight-specific event. Indeed, I am hesitant to call the experience a ‘performance’ as it lacked the live, interaction between audience and actor that I associate with theatre. Yet this does not prevent engagement with the narrative, in fact it was made all the more intriguing and beguiling for the audience who formed the action in their own imagination as the audio described the story – giving each member a different experience of the story.

The unlikely marriage between the folklore source text, the magical and moving poetry acting as Lisa’s inner thoughts, alongside the believable, relatable dialogue between Lisa and her unsympathetic husband was effective in making a gripping and haunting narrative for the audience to follow. The delivery of the story combined with the use of headphones meant that the evil echoing voice of the witch whispers right in your ears, giving you a chill of fear, convincing you against all rationality that she is stood right behind you. This is greatly effective as it serves to keep the audience constantly on edge, in a perpetual state of anticipation. Furthermore, the echoing footsteps in the audio as you stand transfixed in the abandoned car park makes you question what is part of the performance and what is really happening around you. This blending of fantasy and the real world is consistent throughout as the fairy tale reminiscent prose ties to the mundane storyline of Lisa and her husband returning to their car after an evening of shopping. The mystical witch lurking in the definitively urban space of the desolate car park in the city centre, serving to make an everyday, safe space feel uncanny, unfamiliar and unnerving. The twilight (‘witching hour) setting created the perfect ambience for the story, making it seem almost plausible that a witch could be prowling just behind a pillar in the car park.

The sight specific nature of the experience really draws you in, for you are not just part of the performance, you are creating it within their own minds. I admire the simple use of headphones and audience members’ own phones, making it accessible for anyone. I myself have never experienced any promenade performances and I am so glad that this was my introduction to this particular medium. The creators, Common Ground Theatre in collaboration with Hannah Bruce and Company hope to expand this pilot project into a full performance and I look forward to seeing what more they can do with this engaging storyline and unique style of delivery.

  • Site-specific
  • By Hannah Davies
  • Created and devised by Common Ground Theatre with Hannah Bruce and Company
  • Voices by Hannah Davies, David Jarman and Audrie Woodhouse
  • Piccadilly Car Park, York
  • Until 6th October 2018

About The Author

Reviewer (UK)

Megan is a second-year English Literature student at the University of Sheffield with a lifelong passion for theatre. She has participated in many theatrical productions, devised her own performances and has even written a research paper on the power of theatre to aid the social development of autistic children. She is particularly enamoured with the work of Shakespeare and how different productions take on the challenge of representing his plays, yet she enjoys all different types of theatre.

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