At some point my subconscious must have informed my brain that at some point spending my Friday evening sitting in a pitch black room was exactly the way I wanted to welcome in the weekend. For those of you who haven't come across it yet, Battersea Arts Centre is a theatre whose aim, according to its website is to 'reinvent the future of theatre'.
I came away with no other impression after spending the evening there. The Ring is described as a 'sound journey in complete darkness and an antidote to choice'. I must admit, that unlike all the others who had chosen to spend the evening there, I was actually volunteering at the centre that night so had no idea what play I was going to be witnessing that evening.
The Ring was a journey into our minds: what words and nothing else can help us to imagine and create. Each member of the audience was presented with a pair of headphones and then the lights were turned out and the audience readied themselves for an hour long theatrical journey. I had noted before the audience entered the auditorium that the curtains had been sellotaped to the walls and any chinks under the doors had been blocked out.
It really was true blackness. However you wanted to describe it: suffocating, painful, blinding, panic inducing. Each of these descriptors went through my mind as the lights dimmed and the coward within me clawed at my throat and made me want to get up along with another audience member who had decided that total blackout was not for him.
While the headphones are on, and the lights are out, the audience are transported from one room to another one. Another, very similar one. Are those sounds in the headphones real? Are the chairs around you really being moved? The heavy footfall behind you, that's real isn't it? At times, you need confirmation of what's real and what's not, so you take the headphones off and just listen. Then you're aware that you're sitting in a room with 150 other people, in the dark. The surrealness of it makes you smile and put the headphones back on.
It's brought to us from one of the founders of Shunt Theatre, David Rosenburg, and written by Glen Neath. Shunt's legacy is clear in this production: Shunt's main focus is to 'consider the process of the audience', and this clearly comes through in this production of The Ring, brought to us by Fuel Theatre.
The performance is short, only 60 minutes, but it is well timed. Any longer, and the magic might be lost. Go and see this before it's too late (performance closes on the 28th March) and relish the joy of uncertainty, darkness and occasionally, the odd jump or so.