I'm not sure where to begin in trying to review Antenna Theater's Euphorium, the Samuel Taylor Coleridge-inspired "hallucinogenic" trip that originated (rather unsurprisingly) in California and is now installed in the labyrinthine Undercroft of Camden's Roundhouse care of Soho Theatre Company - in my book of somewhat arbitrary definitions, this ain't theatre!
The show promoters themselves seem to have had difficulty defining it, choosing to bill it as "part performance, part installation". That's a generous description, since the live performance part is miniscule to non-existence. There are no in-the-flesh actors (the list of credits includes an assortment of fabricators and voices instead) - bar, that is, the sultry "opium goddess" who leads punters, at 60-second intervals, into the installation.
From there, you're on your own, armed with a Walkman and a virtual reality visor designed to emulate the opium-induced dream that became Coleridge's most famous poem, "Kubla Khan" (with that brilliant line that also provided the memorable opener for Orson Welles' Citizen Kane - "In Xanadu did Kubla Khan a stately pleasure dome decree...").
Initially, I was sceptical. Could this be much more than overextended haunted house trickery? Well, yes actually. The time-triggered technology is extremely clever indeed, and the sensation is very funky - certainly, outside the realm of my normal experience. But I couldn't help feeling uneasy wearing that visor over my face, stumbling along blind and constantly worrying about falling over despite my sensible shoes and the reassuring plastic tubing provided to guide you.
The mesmerising poetry jaunt itself lasts about half an hour maximum, but that's only one component of the Euphorium experience. There's also time to be spent in the convivial Opium Lounge, just soaking up the underworld atmosphere and appreciating the ingenuous use of this unique space.
It might be a throwback to 1960s-style "happenings", but who cares? There's a real vibe about Euphorium and it's a great - and totally different - evening out. I predict it will become one of the most talked about London features of 2002.
- Terri Paddock