Immersive theatre is the kind of theatre that lets its audience interact with what you may or may not call a ‘play.’ It gives its viewers a lot of power in terms of how events unravel, and lets them influence the structure of a theatrical enactment by putting them at the centre of the action. Immersive theatre is a rarity outside of London, but on this particular occasion I had the chance to visit Studio 24 and see how it all goes down in Leeds.
Firstly, I was lost. Situated in an industrial estate in Mabgate, Studio 24 is rather concealed by grey, mechanical architecture. My taxi driver dropped me outside an empty, almost derelict building saying ‘I think it’s in there.’ It wasn’t, but I followed the low humming of tunes and eventually found myself in the right place. I entered the club and was immediately perplexed, an eye peering out of a small square cut from card-like material asked me ‘Do you have a password?’ After a bit of confusion and explaining that I was on the guest list I was instructed to move along to the next booth. Here a small voice came from behind the card asking me if I’d like to exchange any money for SWARM’s (which were tiddlywinks) as she said ‘your money means nothing to us here.’
I was met with an aesthetically pleasing set up, however it did seemed to have an ostentatious feel. Hence the name, it was very studio-like, white walls that seemed almost like cardboard props and strings of colourful lights hung from the ceiling. Over all it had that unfinished, kitschy look about it. There was a small VIP area in the corner, which consisted of actors lounging around on white leather sofas.
The music was pleasant and very what I expected, quite minimalistic house and techy beats which picked up a little towards the end of the night. The kind of music people would find hard to dislike, as there isn’t much to it. As advertised, the event said the audience would be able to have some influence towards the music, but upon asking the ‘DJ’ if I could request a track, he declined and revealed he was only playing a playlist off his MacBook.
I hung around in the main area awaiting some theatrical drama. I scanned the area trying to pick out whom and who weren’t actors, overhearing a few arguments which I assumed were planned, and designed to be eavesdropped on. Someone in a blonde wig was bitching about ‘the new girl’ taking ‘her territory.’ She later got up on the stage in the VIP area and began to sing whilst swaying to the music. A group of three girls looking rather school-girl-esque turned to face me, one pointed their finger and the rest began to giggle. I also assumed that they were actors too but perhaps I’m just hilarious to look at. In terms of drama, it was all very subtle. A crowd would emerge around a group of actors every now and then who would perform some synchronized dancing.
The smoking area was filled with a lot of existential-talk, people discussing how they weren’t willing to alternate the way they live in the present just to affect their ‘afterlife.’ There was also a group of people huddled in a circle trying to identify who was a part of the production, I over heard one of them say ‘so do you think Michael McIntyre is going to come out in a minute?’
All in all, I think I approached immersive theatre with the idea that things were going to massively kick off, but on this occasion, it was much more low-key than that. Although, if you’re the type of person that is into theatre as much as you’re into partying, then this would be a great, unorthodox alternative to a night out. RIPTIDE make use of many public locations, not only nightclubs, so there is choice when it comes to engaging with some crowd-involving drama.