1630 (1930) until 20th (not 14th, 15th) @ Zoo
By Emily P
Any drama experience which has one crouching in a soggy rhododendron bush, in the middle of sheep-country, giddy with anticipation and exertion – gets a thumbs-up from me. I guess the traditional way to describe this event would be to call it an interactive, site-specific, promenade reworking of a well-known tale oh, and with stand-alone film and audio pieces attached. But that would sound a bit boring. This is not boring. This is The Famous Five meets The Wicker Man. Does that sound boring?
Threshold is a world which you step into and run with for a while. To start you off you receive an Order of Ceremonies for a wedding which is to take place at the country home of the eccentric and insular Hunter family. You can read this on the coach journey you’ll be taking out of town. Don’t bother asking the driver where you’re going – he’s not going to tell you. But there is a clue in the audio track which forms part of the piece, playing throughout your drive. This track is a fake hour of radio switching between chat show to afternoon play, music and back again. The play in particular is quite compelling in itself but the purpose of it all is to prime your thoughts and imagination before you experience the acted narrative. It also makes the travel time a conditioning episode which allows us to really let go of our cynical reluctance to participate when the action gets going.
Even before you arrive at the ancient home of the Hunters you are playing the role of wedding guest – but this is an easy part to play. In fact unlike many interactive and promenade plays it seems natural to be part of the action when we step off the bus onto the gravel drive and make our way to the welcoming staff. We meet the Hunter children, who are the main characters in the narrative and are split, at our own choosing, into about 5 groups, each to follow different members of the cast. And so the drama unfolds like the family linen. At least, depending on the particular corner we’ve taken, we start to explore the peripheral, crinkled edges of it. Feeling our way around the menacing and ominous legend of secrets behind locked doors.
The logistics are wonderfully worked out – with paths crossing for tantalising moments of shared narrative or when we hear, or witness, from afar action from other parts of the estate-sized stage. All of this allowing you to glean here and there snatches of the sinister goings on in the past and present of this odd family. I suggest that if you are in a group, or couple, that you split yourselves up so that you have the fun of comparing your different perspectives on the mystery of the Hunter brides on the way home.
The acting, or at least that which I experienced, was excellent – the actors holding up superbly under what must be very unusual and challenging circumstances. Story-wise I happen to be a fan of gothic mystery and if you throw in a historical setting and condition my brain with morbid thoughts there isn’t much chance that I’m not buying into it. As for agenda – I love that, in a really immediate demonstration of how perspective shapes all, I still don’t know the whole story of what was going to happen to that girl or the secrets of every member of that household.
This isn’t just theatre – this is an event which happens around you – only one which a very talented company have carefully contrived into being. I’d happily let them carry me over the Threshold into their world every night for the rest of the run