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Review: Adrift at New Benner Theatre

Review by Panayiota

Presented by Counterpilot, Adrift was unveiled at the New Benner Theatre at Metro Arts, West End. This piece of theatre was played out in a non-traditional performance format. There were no actors to speak of. No formal stage. No rows for audience seating, rather, audience members have an active role in portraying stories. It’s quite an interactive experience, for sure.

Once the House goes live, I was first to enter and be greeted by two individuals who relieved me of some personal items. No phones, no watches, no handbags, etc are permitted inside.

I was assigned an ID bracelet which had two purposes. One to help me retrieve my belongings after the show, but more importantly, it assisted my part in the production. This is the case for all audience members. You are then directed to walk towards the light ahead which begins your unique adventure.

Stepping through hard plastic curtains, you’re greeted by more people who guide you from space to space until fully dressed with vest and headsets. Finally, using your wristband ID, you’re asked to locate your seat and you take it.

Being the first one to enter and seated in this place, what I’ll refer to as, holding bay, I was at first enveloped with silence, stillness. I could hear my heart and mind quivering about being so far underground and in a dark space and what might come next. Then it was interrupted by welcome relief as the rest of the audience arrived and took their seats.

I watched them come through the same process and intrigued that some seemed calm while others had their reactions too. I felt more at ease with this as a smile took over my face.

Nothing is normal here, yet you are safe.

Sounds of whispers begin, well mine did at least. They were sure to remind me this was an experience you chose to have. Right?

Once all were seated, you’re all given information via your headsets. They’ve been on your heads the whole time. All communication is through these. When you’re given instructions, you simply carry them out.

Shortly, you’re introduced to your scene partner, another audience member. You’re each given directions and you play them out.

So simple, yet so intricate are the details with which encompasses everything that follows.

All we had to do was 'go with the flow.’

At various intervals, there are colourful lights to illuminate your journey and appropriate darkness too. Background noise always come through your headsets too. There was water too. Clear, cool water. You get to play with it.

A sensorial experience as well as a thought provoking one. Whether done deliberately or not, the stories tackle socially conscious issues. The environment, social issues, mental challenges, life/death, animal welfare. There are times you may feel joy and others sadness. But you’re always safe, supported, while emotionally thrilled.

The New Benner Theatre is a well-chosen space for this production. Moving down two flights of stairs to the underground. The massive underground pillars, the dark charcoal grey, all lay a solid foundation for what’s to come.

When the show comes to an end, you’re guided to a pleasant surprise. A lighter space. A space another audience member voiced as being a ‘soft exit.’ Yes, indeed, it was as it provided a few moments to decompress and relax until you’re eventually ushered back to the surface.

What a marvellous production. I commend Counterpilot for their work. Their insight. Their boldness. They take storytelling beyond the social norms. It is their way and it works.

I was swept away into the world they created and thoroughly enjoyed my stay.

It was well thought out. All details were executed with such precision. We were safe and supported every step of the way.

Please go and see/experience it. Support them. I highly recommend it.

Image Supplied


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