On Friday evening (12 May) a group of Anywhere Theatre Festival patrons fell down a rabbit hole into a mysterious world hidden in the after-hours space of the Brisbane Museum. Finding ourselves quickly recruited by a menagerie of characters, wild and wonderful, we were tasked with solving what vexed them, to fend off the impending doom of the ‘Dull’ an apparently contagious condition we were all scanned for as we entered the play portal. The Farce Awakens is an energetic and engaging display of immersive theatre brought to Brisbane by Folly Games, the team behind the run-away success of the same games at the Woodford Folk Festival.
For those who haven’t experienced immersive theatre at this level, it’s like falling into a ‘Choose your Own Adventure’ book cross-pollinated with a reality version of the Cluedo board game. Each player (audience member) is assigned a character that they must seek out to start the game, but from then on you make choices as to where you go and who you interact with. I was assigned to the fabulous pirates, The Pilates, who were to be found in the Data Stratification exhibition by Robert Andrew (a descendant of the Yawuru people of WA). A stunning juxtaposition of ‘pirates’ would-be colonisers against a work that uses automation and natural objects as string weights (pearls, wood) to create a gorgeous aural representation of languages lost as colonising tongues take over to supress history. This layer of meaning beneath the folly in-situ was inspirational.
As the story-machine launched it was clear who in the ‘audience’ was familiar with the format and who were wide-eyed newbies. I fell into the latter category and periodically took refuge as a wall flower to watch the fascinating chaos of swarming interrogators; Those in-the-know were quick in their interactions with the characters to try and establish the objective of the evening and uncover who among the Elizabogans, Pilates, Onabots and the Big Hat Rail gangsters were potentially villains. The ultimate villain being uncovered as the incoming Game Master while the ominous presence of Death lurked from room to room ready to escort any perished player or character out of existence (yes, you do run the risk of dying!).
This unique experience was incredibly fun and an utterly brilliant interpretation of the Anywhere Theatre ethos by using the Museum as the ‘stage’. For two and half hours the actors had to remain in character and switched-on as it was the audience that drove the outcome (what a feat of endurance, I was exhausted by the end just watching). Awaken your inner child and shake off the Dull until May 20.