With the usher holding one of my hands and my friend the other, I’m led, blindfolded into a room. With no idea what to expect, all I’m conscious of is that what I’m about to experience will be exactly that, an experience.
Upon entering the performance space for The Apocalypse Tapes, you are given a blindfold each, and told you can take it off at any point during the show, or not use it at all. Once everyone is seated, an eerie soundscape begins, followed by the first strains of dialogue. Impatient and anxious that I am about to miss some crucial moments of visual action, I take off my blindfold within a minute of the piece beginning.
A chorus lines the walls, surrounding two central actors (Luke Macaronas and Ellie Woods). The actors crawl around on the floor, amongst a minimalistic set, hardly visible as the space is initially completely unlit.
Through the direction of Arthur Knight, the chorus creates abstract shapes, generating soundscapes and grouping together in a Greek chorus inspired mass. Occasionally an actor breaks from the group and becomes an isolated character, typically one that is cold and devoid of emotion, that contrasts effectively with the raw emotions of Macaronas and Woods.
Macaronas crawls around the floor, his body twisted into an alien physicality, while Woods remains mostly still, stoic and calm. This contrast between these two portrayals of character communicate the different reactions of people to crisis, and juxtapose to create an engaging dynamic. This fraying relationship reaches a climax as the two desperately claw their way through the tapes, crying out for what they think has been lost.
Most audience members remove their blindfolds within the first few minutes, and I can’t help wondering if their use could have been better orchestrated. There is no specific time when they are meant to be taken off, yet the piece becomes more and more visual as it progresses, clearly with the assumption that the audience will have taken off their blindfolds. The one brave audience member who left their blindfold on for the whole show would have completely missed a large portion of the stagecraft, and all the striking physical positions of the chorus and core actors. Had there been a specific time when the audience were told to remove their blindfolds, I believe the performance would have been more consistently affecting.
James Macaronas has created a highly thought provoking piece, leaving me feeling strangely perplexed and emotional. While the characters seek an arcadia where everything is fixed, the audience leaves still searching for meaning, disoriented by their experience in a darkened room surrounded by memories and the apocalypse tapes.
FLW’s The Apocalypse Tapes runs from the 22nd – 25th of August as part of Mudfest 2017.
For more information visit http://mudfest.art