Before starting this review I would like to congratulate the collaborators Hijinx and Punchdrunk Enrichment on arguably the most incredible and engaging immersive, site specific performance that I have ever had the pleasure of participating in, a bold statement that I hope this review provides justification for.
“We’ve all lost something: glasses, keys, memories, love, loved ones, our way…Are these things gone forever or have they found a home elsewhere? Hidden in Cardiff is a world of lost things. In the shadows, behind closed doors, we await you”
On Wednesday the 1st of July I joined a steadily growing queue outside the Maldron Hotel in Cardiff to see Beneath The Streets: Lost and Found. An exciting buzz of anticipation was rippling through the audience and before long a briefing on what was to come was delivered, along with mandatory dust masks. The buzz was now turning into excited curiosity as we were led to the front doors of Jacob’s Antiques Market.
Upon entering the space I was immediately drawn to the attention of detail that had been used. Given that I am familiar with the regular layout of Jacob’s Antiques Market I was extremely impressed with how the design team and stage carpenter had utilised the space given to create this incredibly beautiful maze spanning two floors. I will admit I had trouble finding my way around for the first 15 minutes. Everywhere you went you were met with a corner, a drape or darkness! Opening doors to nothingness, dim lighting that cast shadows over performers and beautiful decorations adorning different sections of this new world.
My particular favourite was a pyramid made from pages and pages of books in the section of lost words, the impressive set design continued as I found myself being led by an actor into a dark room lit with a few candles, to be told a tragic love story, only to find him conversing through a non-existent mirror with his lady-love. An extremely clever trick that left myself and the other audience member, that had been lured to the ‘other room’, in complete shock. Upon discovery of the lower lair I came across sets of actors telling different stories, all looking for something or finding something. Ascending to the upper we were greeted with corporate scenes, scientists, products, offices and even a small exhibition. Eventually a message sounded over the tannoy asking that all staff report to a meeting on the upper level, the audience then witnessed the delivering of an elixir which had side effects on every staff member. The staff began to engage with the audience, but in a different way than before – this was then our signal to be led out.
I feel that words simply cannot describe how beautiful, thought-provoking and magical the experience was. Every actor was superb, it was inspiring to see the relationships between characters and the chemistry felt in each situation, credit is due to all that participated. The set and costume designs were outstanding and considering how much effort had gone into stage production I felt this really complimented the actors and helped to bring the performance to life.
As an actor that has performed in immersive theatre I applaud with admiration each and everyone that performed in this flawless production, immersive theatre is the most exciting of theatre forms that I hope all actors enjoyed delivering to their audience. With the element of lost and found I can speak from personal experience when agreeing that I did lose myself here because I was so completely engaged with this perfect production, I will definitely be the first in line for tickets when Hijinx and Punchdrunk Enrichment honour the people of Cardiff with another outstanding show.