Few theatrical experiences start hours before you even arrive, with a vaguely cryptic text message welcoming you to the show and giving you a set of instructions. It is an intriguing taste of what is to come, as when you go En Route you give yourself up entirely to messages communicated from afar. In doing so you are led on a tour of the city that will change the way you think about the landscape for ever.
The show by One Step at a Time Like This began in Australia, and having toured a number of cities makes its international debut as part of the Traverse Theatre’s season at the Edinburgh Fringe.
Armed with an iPod, mobile phone and other hidden treats you discover along the way, you are personally guided through backstreets and alleyways, up stairwells and through shopping malls. Absorbing, atmospheric music and narration accompany your journey and focus your attention on the environment you are in. It is billed as a love song to the city, but it is so, so much more. At times it is a playful little game, where you don’t know what waits around the next corner, but then sometimes it feels lonely, maybe even a little intimidating, before it surprises you again.
The true beauty of En Route is that it creates theatre in all that is around you. From the moment the experience begins you can’t be certain what is part of the performance and what is mere reality. With all of your senses heightened, you start to see everything in poetic detail and wonder where each thing fits in the narrative of the city. Was the perfectly clean toothbrush discarded in a smelly alley a prop, placed there for some significance? Was everyone I passed on the street secretly in on the adventure – from the man that winked at me as I smiled at him, to the family who followed close behind me taking my picture? Joy surges through your veins as you spot an arrow chalked on the pavement, and you follow it unquestioningly until you pass a phonebox and it rings from within. Is that for you?
To describe all the delights encountered would ruin the experience for others, and will never adequately capture the magic of the time I spent wandering and pondering the streets of Edinburgh. En Route teaches you to see and feel all that is around you, and that makes for an unconventional, but no less powerful, theatrical experience. The beauty is that these things are around us every day, waiting to be seen properly, and En Route trains you how to do that.
En Route is playing throughout the Edinburgh Festival. Tickets can be booked via the Traverse Theatre website.