Shakespeare once wrote “Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises, sounds and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not”, and never have these words been more beautifully captured than in SEDOS’s immersive production.
Normally I would want as many people to read my work as possible, but in this case, anyone thinking of going to Such Stuff should click away right now, because reading any further may decrease your awe and wonder. Just know I would give the show as many stars as possible and think everyone in London should see this show.
To call the show a production of The Tempest is both an overstatement and an understatement. As with all immersive theatre, the narrative is compromised and my previous knowledge of The Tempest is the only thing that kept me following the tenuous plot. However, whilst I cannot speak on behalf of directors Sarah Heenan and Charlotte Price, I would venture that they weren’t trying to tell the story of Shakespeare’s classic play, but rather create the world that story conjures and pay homage to the essence of the play. Shakespeare in his time was always challenging expectations and on the cutting edge of theatre, and in that sense, Such Stuff is just that – a perfect homage.
However, the actors could have been the most mediocre performers in London and I don’t think I would have cared, because of the set. Words cannot express how stunning is what SEDOS have done with 15,000 sq ft of office building: I congratulate the combined efforts of everyone involved with both design and dressing. I walked around with my mouth constantly agape in absolute wonder and disbelief. There are even smells. I won’t say anymore because everyone should experience the magic first-hand, but it is hands down the most set I have ever seen, and easily the jewel in the crown that is Such Stuff.
The sight and smells are enhanced by Ben Hussey, Michael Smith and Tristan Bishop’s soundtrack. It completely immerses the audience in the world they are experiencing. I wish I could describe in more detail what exactly the audience hears, but the soundtrack is so layered and complex that I couldn’t even begin to try. Whatever the team have done, they execute it perfectly.
The performers themselves may seem secondary to the atmosphere, but they are extremely compelling and inhabit the island like they belong (or they don’t – but I’ll leave you to find that out for yourself). I personally followed the characters played by Benjamin Hooper, Helena Bumpus, Samuel Hunt (who was understudying as Caliban) and Robert J Stanex, all of whom give great performances, despite being amateurs. Did I not mention that this whole show is an amateur production? I was shocked too. Rebecca Wedgewood is also commanding and chilling. I am particularly sad I won’t necessarily see Hunt in the role he played last night if I go again (which I almost certainly will), as he commits to the role entirely and is unafraid to drag the audience into the action. I would encourage the audience to follow whoever they feel compelled to , and not to try and pre-plan their time. You’ll be swept along by whatever or whomever you see, regardless of your intentions.
I cannot recommend Such Stuff highly enough. I encourage, urge and plead with you to go, because I guarantee you will not have seen anything like this before. Whoever is in charge of awards that the folks at SEDOS would be eligible for, book your ticket now!
Such Stuff is playing at Caplan House until 23 April. For more information and tickets, see the SEDOS website.