It might seem strange to review a show without technically ‘seeing’ it, but unfortunately today I have no choice as I was blindfolded throughout the performance. No, I was not kidnapped by some innovative immersive theatre production, merely one of the audience members who chose to experience Bad Physics’ latest rather than view it. And I have to say, it was the most enjoyable evening I’ve spent not watching something.
Sunday Morning at the Centre of the World is a play for voices by Louis de Bernières, and until now has only been performed once (on BBC Radio 3) since its completion in 2001. The script contains vivid descriptions of the inhabitants of Earlsfield, where de Bernières lived until the success of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, and Bad Physics has taken this treasure of a script and turned it into a trove – you can choose to be blindfolded and experience the narrative through sounds, smells and touch.
There is, of course, the option of seeing how they trick your senses to believe there is a cat purring around your ankles, or a woman singing in her bathtub; for those less comfortable with the thought of being blind in the company of strangers it must prove an interesting sight. Unable to resist the potential for amusing anecdotes, I opted for the blindfold.
As we are led into the space we are greeted with traditional Sunday morning smells – wafted in with coffee and bacon. From then on it is an exploration of the senses as the cast create a cocoon of noises, aromas and sensations for the next fifty five minutes.
Some moments have touches of perfection. The market scene, for instance, had me convinced the room was filled with more than eight performers – the timing had to be perfect for it to work so well and the polish was evident. Evidence of ingenuity was present throughout, with beautiful touches and ideas executed with professionalism and flair. It was wonderful to imagine your own space, your own set of faces and costumes for the characters (in the same way you would when reading) and to anticipate what high jinx the company would reveal to you next.
I was only disappointed by what felt like a lack of investigation into deeper tactile elements, especially after some interesting physical exploration early on. There were also some stimuli repeated too often: we all got a bit fed up of being buffered by the ‘wind’, especially after an hour under a cold railway arch. These, however, are silly niggles and in no way should detract from what is an accomplished piece, especially from such a young company.
Poignant moments flowed effortlessly into humour and the lives of Earlsfield’s inhabitants sprang from the darkness on the other side of my blindfold. The play was descriptive rather than plot-driven, but this is irrelevant and my concentration never wandered – except possibly to wonder why fellow audience members just started laughing…
While I can’t guarantee that watching this play will provide you with as much entertainment, I highly recommend getting some shut eye (geddit?) down at the Southwark Playhouse soon.
Until April 16th at the Southwark Playhouse