A journey into the darkened depths of murderous insanity – and the beautifully grand interior of the University of Edinburgh’s Anatomy Department – Grid Iron’s What Remains is a unique and unsettling site-specific work which, despite having little in the way of emotional impact, has enough innovation and power to make a lasting impression.
The audience are split into three groups: each of us is an applicant to Maestro Gilbert Prendergast’s Conservatoire of the Anatomy of Music. As we are led around the darkened ‘classrooms’, we are subjected to a series of tests to determine our eligibility; and – like detectives piecing together clues – begin to uncover the terrible truth which lies at the heart of Prendergast’s drive for musical perfection.
Taking cues from horror films and with its musical premise, the sound design of What Remains is an important component part. Beginning with a live virtuoso performance from Prendergast himself (an impressively intense David Paul Jones), the musical motifs are repeated on recordings throughout the space, complemented by some claustrophobic and discomforting sound effects.
There is no grand message to What Remains. At times, it feels like we are playing a live computer game or at some gothic theme park attraction, travelling from one location to another as we uncover the information which leads us to the final act. But, as Prendergast’s terrible secret is revealed between the gigantic animal skeletons of the Museum of Anatomy, the lack of theme and dramatic structure is less important than the foreboding atmosphere which Grid Iron have successfully managed to create.
As an experience, What Remains is brilliantly conceived and designed. And despite its melodrama, it is a well-composed theatrical journey which Grid Iron use to great effect to play with our senses.
What Remains runs until Aug 28 (not Mondays). More details here.