To start any review of this show, I must actually start with a review of the location, because, while RIFT have been specializing in site specific performances for some time, it looks like they’re going to be settling down in this place. The gates of hell are pleasant indeed; wooden walkways and benches with a water feature in the middle and flowers dripping over the edges; a second story visiting-and-drinking area overlooking the entire space; and a million pleasant spots to stop and wait. The bar has a series of Stygian-inspired drinks, the most unmissable of which was the pomegranate mojito – holy shades of Persephone! I felt pretty confident that even if I ate the fruit garnish I’d be allowed to leave afterwards so I did in. Yum! It was an absolutely perfect place to spend a lovely summer day, although I wonder how it will hold up in the rain … still, it’s not where my head was that day. I couldn’t have felt further away from any sort of dark thoughts. Bring on the party!
At last, though, I was taken from my seats in Hell’s Little Waiting Room and me and my companion were escorted into the building, being carefully fitted with headphones and a tiny pink MP3 device so that by the time we made it inside, we were confirmed as fully wired for sound. And then our journey to the Styx began, or, rather, our journey through this narrative. Our headphones played a story about at attempt to deal with an urn that should have been full of ashes; I, the interlocutor, was attempting to deal with a death both externally (through the urn) and internally. This lead to a journey across London: I went to a funeral parlor, a wood (possibly Hampstead Heath), a cafe, and eventually an underground platform. But this, in some ways, is where the voice in my head told me I was supposed to be going; I was so overwhelmed with the visual stimuli that I’m afraid I nearly entirely lost the thread of the narration and kind of went into a dream state where the things I was seeing connected in their own way: the voice in my head was like the words you hear people speak in a dream, where the words are completely nonsensical and the meaning comes through later, thanks to the miracle of internal logic.
So instead of carrying on by telling you what maybe I was supposed to have going on, I’m going to tell you about what I experienced and how my dream logic brain put things together (with some attempt at not revealing all): I was on a journey of the parallel world of death and the dead that exists alongside the London we see every day. The port of entry might be a funeral parlor; the characters I met were speaking words and going through emotions that I thought made sense but were more roles they were playing as functionaries in this parallel world. Every park is also a graveyard; every public space is peopled by the living (barely), the dead (mostly) and the soon to be dead, who glow with the energy of their impending transformation. Every room, every tube platform is a place full of more beings who used to exist then those who exist now; we attempt to hold on to those alive and those dead and yet wind up losing both. Eventually we lose ourselves. Eventually everything is gone, except the two pennies we thrust in our pocket before we started the journey and the pomegranate seeds we still hold, thoughtfully, in our mouth – a last connection with the world of the sun and the living we like to pretend is the only reality, but is in fact the true illusion.
(This review is for a performance that took place the night of July 7th, 2015. It continues through August 1; returns may be available at the door.)