Soho Theatre Company and Antenna
Undercroft, The Roundhouse
This is a bizarre experience co-produced by the Soho Theatre Company and Antenna from San Francisco and is an hallucinogenic 3-D trip through Samuel Taylor Coleridges opium-infused fantasia, Kubla Khan.
The underground passages and caverns of the Roundhouse are eerie enough as it is and as one enters individually with a female guide, the goddess, there is an air of mystery and deep solemnity. Actually, I wanted to giggle, but that passed as a tape recorder was hung and around my neck and complete with earphones I was invited to by a voice to enter a triangular brick room and invited to sit down. For the next few minutes one is introduced to the tale of the opium dream which inspired the poem. The chair revolves and another silent guide placed a black box over my head so that I was completely blind. My right hand was placed on a rope and I was gently encouraged to follow the path of the rope. Immediately, I was in a disorienting world of fantasy with visionary monsters and palatial pavilions appearing disconcertingly in front of me as I hesitantly inched my way forward. A deep, calming and resonant voice started to declaim the poem: it felt, indeed, hallucinogenic. For a few minutes I was genuinely frightened and claustrophobia elicited a mild panic. Stumbling onwards as the rope twisted and turned, two gentle hands were placed on my shoulders. My guide was with me, invisible and unheard, and that was reassuring. It was a further relief to glance upwards and discover a slanted mirror extending from the box projecting the plaster cast visions, suspended from the ceiling, before my eyes. I relaxed and began to enjoy myself as the soothing sound of waves rippling on a shore washed over me and I wandered beneath the sea.
It was, in fact, all over with far too quickly. Id forgotten how beautiful, how lyrical and replete with glorious imagery the poem actually can be when read out loud. I wanted to go round again immediately. While I didnt exactly have a hallucinogenic experience, the disorientation was rather pleasurable and as I exited to find my friends who had gone in before me seated at a table in an underground room, I felt calm and yet mildly ecstatic. I can recommend it to anyone who likes their theatre to be weird and wondrous.
Reviewer: Jackie Fletcher