The Ditch Shoreditch Town Hall 380 Old Street EC1V 9LT To 25 October 2015.
Various times Mon-Fri from 6pm, Sat/Sun from 12pm – individual entry at 15minute intervals, as available.
Probable time 30min – 1hr.
Review: Carole Woddis 1 September.
Fabulous in every sense.
`Immersive’ theatre is all the rage, a hold-all term covering a gamut of situations. At one time, it was even known as `promenade’. In dreamthinkspeak’s Absent, just about all its forms are employed at one time or another: promenade, installation, film, `Live Art’, and `plastic art’ , in a fabulous recreation within the transformed Shoreditch Town Hall.
These old Victorian civic piles have lent themselves in recent years to becoming centres of new artistic life. Shoreditch is clearly carving out a totally new story for itself.
Absent – a haunting journey into the past and devastating comment on the future – sits beguilingly within this framework transformed into the smartest of hotels, every concierge smilingly efficient; no detail has been overlooked. We are beckoned and walk along corridors where we catch glimpses of an elderly woman, later of her younger self as a celebrated 1950s socialite, then as a child on a swing.
In between, we enter rooms sometimes elegantly vintage, at others ultra-modern, some derelict, smelly and ruined. Finally, the piece de résistance, a ballroom – mangled, destroyed – we’ve just witnessed on film of the woman’s earlier social triumph.
Absent is loosely based on the story of the Duchess of Argyll’s residence in – and eviction from – a London hotel in the 1970s, recreating her as the fictional Margaret de Beaumont by following a similar theatrical conceit used some years ago when Deborah Warner re-imagined the St Pancras Hotel in its glory days.
You make your own journey, full of atmospheres. dreamthinkspeak also add, brilliantly, a dizzying range of perspectives – visual, emotional, metaphysical.
The other part of the conceit is that this hotel is in the midst of being `developed’ by a thrusting CEO (seen on video and even the subject of an article, along with one on Margaret de Beaumont, in the London Evening Standard). Its ultra-modern, hermetic, cramped cell-like rooms are also, Absent seems to be saying the awful accommodation style of the future.
Wonderfully crafted down to the last minute detail, this is an exquisite, clever, probing exploration of the past and future, reality and fantasy.
Margaret de Beaumont: Katerina Jugati, Pip Mayo, Sorel Johnson.
Hotel Manager: Alexandria Macleod, Isobel Jewson.
Installation/Film design: Tristan Sharps.
Film photography and post: Will Duke.
Film/Stills photography: Jim Stephenson.
Graphics: Sara Popowa.
Costume: Meera Osborne.
Model Maker: Adrian Hardy.
Architectural Model Makers: Najim Marufi, Olumbunmi Fagbenro, Aderinsola Fadina, Antigoni Goutakoli, Dovydas Krasauska, Rosine Gibbs-Stevenson, Misbah Mahmood, Jonathan Martin-Thomas, Sarah Middleton, Evripides Mytilineos, Joe Randall, Ariane Boogaard, My Tran.
Assistant director: Jess Duxbury.
“Waiting’ by Alice Boman used with permission from Woodwork Music.
A dreamthinkspeak production, commissioned by Shoreditch Town Hall, London International Festival of Theatre (LIFT) and LeftCoast.
First performance of Absent at Shoreditch Town Hall, London 24 August 2015.