The La Boite Roundhouse Theatre was alive and buzzing on Thursday night as their Indie Season kicked off with a number of shows being presented at the same time in and around the La Boite Theatre Space and neighbouring Kelvin Grove Urban Village Precinct.
The foyer also received a face-lift more fitting to the program, which gave a feeling of a creative community coming together to discuss ideas rather than a common waiting room to the theatre.
One of the six Indie works on offer on Thursday night was The Séance, which only allowed approximately sixteen audience members/participants. Firstly, any kind of audience participation makes me anxious, but to knowingly go into a show that requires everyone to be involved in some capacity made me want to drink something more than coffee before going in.
Before entering the space, the small group was each given a rose (for reasons which would come to light later), and were told that we’d be standing for most of the time. So I prepared myself for both emotional and physical discomfort. And I wasn’t the only one by the looks of everyone else’s body language as we entered; there were a lot of folded arms and eye contact avoidance so the actor wouldn’t single them out for any part of the proceedings.
Luckily we did actually get to sit on the floor for a good amount of time and there wasn’t anything out of the comfort zone that we were required to do (it was more the mental anguish of not knowing and being expected to trust a complete stranger than the actual act of doing that makes it so).
The Séance was as the title suggests, a gathering of people to connect with the spirit a deceased fictional celebrity actor Sophie Webb to help her cross to the other side. In addition to my discomfort about audience participation, we were about to partake in a séance, and by the look of the poster, it was all pretty serious stuff – anything could happen. Again, my preconceived notions were ill-founded because it was all very tongue in cheek and actually funny in places. You know how some people love B-grade horror just so they can have a good laugh? Well it was a little like that.
Created by No Show (Mark Pritchard and Bridget Balodis) with Sophie Webb, the concept of the work is to engage the complicity of the audience. For that very reason, I would say the experiment with this new form of theatre was a huge success for the company. Yet I don’t know whether it quite worked from the point of view of this particular audience, who didn’t seem to want to be challenged in that kind of way.
However, I do have to commend the incredibly talented actor Sophie Webb (the living version) who gave the utmost commitment to the role and held our attention for just under an hour. She also gave us an impressive performance of a Whitney Houston song, which elicited cheers and wolf-whistles from her captive audience who had been won over by the sheer charisma and talent of this actor/singer.
The Prologue was performed to our small group outside the theatre by another actor who I assume is co-creator Mark Pritchard (the program didn’t write specific titles next to names). He discussed myths surrounding the theatre like ghost stories, preparing us for what was to come.
And although there was a story that accompanied the séance, a great deal of time was spent conjuring up the spirit rather than seeing her which made it feel a bit like I was in the absurdist play ‘Waiting for Sophie’. I wanted more of a pay-off from the other side.
Special mention does need to be made of the set dressing by Mettea Davies, as the ‘undisclosed venue’ was transformed into a dressing room shrine for the young deceased celebrity. It was very detailed and provided the right atmosphere for the occasion.
Overall, The Séance was an interesting experimental collaboration between actor and audience, and for the open minded who would like to engage in this new form of theatre, please don’t take my word on this one and just go and experience it for yourself.