Theatre in the Mill, in Bradford, run Open Space, a programme designed to support the development of new work. As part of that programme, Northern Creative Theatre presented a sharing of their work in progress, the Museum of Terrifying Example.
In the space we find a number of plinths, on which are ‘exhibits’ assembled by designer Lucy Archbould; goggles with fake eyes stuck on them, a pile of tights, make up, each with a number but no label. Oh, and two of the exhibits are actors, Laura Gubbins and Kuselo Kamau, wrapped in brown paper and thoroughly taped to their plinths. As the lights dim, they begin to shuffle around, and then slowly, start to unwrap each other with their teeth.
They go on to interact with the different exhibits, putting tights on their heads, taping each other up, blundering around with the goggles obscuring their vision. And questions begin to emerge; why do they stop when they hear the sound of footsteps coming closer? Why are they doing these weird things? Is it for our benefit? Theirs? Or for some unseen curator? Are they doing it for fun, duty, or fear? Are they wrecking the museum or improving it?
And slowly our sense of reality starts to unwind. The first time they visit the make up, for example, a microphone picks up every sound they make. When they return to the make up, however, it takes a moment to realise that the sound no longer matches their movements; it’s a recording. The effect is deeply disorientating and brilliantly executed by sound designer Jonnie Khan.
Atmospherically lit with isolated pools of light, acted with great discipline and focus (enigmatic is really hard work) and rich with invention I left intrigued and definitely wanting to spend more time in the dark world Joanne Hartley and Anna Siobhan Wilcox (as Writer Facilitator and Director, respectively) have created.
I like that there are no definitive answers; but a lot of questions and an exciting blend of playfulness and threat. In terms of the content, there are two directions open to the creative team; they can make it more abstract and resistant to interpretation, or they could give us more hints as the logic of their dream-world, but without giving definitive answers. As a narrative junkie, I’d like to be teased with a few more details about the relationship between the curator and the performers, or between the performers themselves. Given a few more prompts my imagination would run wild. But maybe it’s good for a narrative junkie to go cold turkey from time to time. Either way, my visit to the Museum was so intriguing enough that I greatly look forward to seeing how it develops.