Writers: Ant Hampton and Tim Etchells
Reviewer: Mary Tapper
The Public Reviews Rating:
Ever wanted to take part in interactive theatre but been a bit too shy? Love books and the theatre of your own mind? Then this could just be what you have been looking for. Here the “audience” is just you and a friend, hidden away in Oxford’s Central Library with a pile of books. So what is it like? What does it involve and is it worth taking a risk and having a go?
Well for starters you are not really hidden away in the library and that really is the point. Desks are set up in the space at the back of the first floor, facing outwards towards the reading desks and shelves of the main room. You and your chosen friend are here to experience the library in all its glory, listen to its heart and soul and observe its goings on. The tape that you both listen to takes you into books and out again, flipping you between the reading experience and the awareness of your surroundings. It makes you think about the very process of reading and listening to someone read aloud: how much is given to us from the page and how much do we instantly create for ourselves? Are we all involved in the creative experience from the moment we pick up a book and will one person’s perceptions of a scene be different from another’s?
It is important to read the instruction sheet before you start and it is also worth emphasising that it doesn’t matter how quickly you read. The tape is clear at all points and even though it is difficult not to feel a little anxious and pressurised at the start, one soon becomes absorbed in having fun. Headphones are comfortable and a member of staff from the playhouse helps to get you started by switching on the ipods at the same time and checking you know what you are up to. It is also worth pointing out that, at times, one of the pair will be given an instruction, while the other is passive and vice versa: this creates a nice interplay between you and helps take you to a world apart from the library, so that you sit in your own little cocoon, urgently observing and following until you emerge at the end, half drugged by the mesmeric tape, not wanting the hypnotic voice to stop, intrigued by the possibilities of books.
It would be unfair to give away the exact contents of the tape but it certainly makes you think about how we view a narrator and how we all read without even being conscious of it, so that we overlook the physical beauty of the word on the page.
Do not worry if you are not necessarily passionate about books. All texts are well chosen and you do not need to be either incredibly well read or quick at reading to enjoy this hour.
As we emerge from the library, blinking into gathering dusk of the day my friend and I agree that the hour has been both absorbing and thought provoking. We are also left desperately eager to read the rest of the three books that we have delved into. Perhaps the only way this could be bettered would be to provide a small piece of paper with the titles on it at the very end. This is one reader who will be sneaking back in a quiet moment to take down the titles so that I can borrow the books from the library!
So, take a friend, take a partner, take anyone who likes to try something a bit new and think about things in a different way. Books, a library and theatre you help to create – what could be better?
Runs until 20th Oct