Review By Lauren Donikian
It is not every day that you get locked in a safe, but when you do make sure it is at ‘In Chamber’ which is a part of the Sydney Festival. Down a set of stairs and into a safe that is full of books, suitcases and rocks is where the 20-minute immersive experience will take place.
The Kimpton Margot opened in February of 2022 after renovations and is located in the original Water Board offices on Pitt Street. The heritage listed Art Deco Hotel makes a big impact on entry and the décor is undeniably a nod to the 1930’s. It is obvious why this location was chosen for this experience.
After a welcome to country and a list of ‘house rules’ that provide you an overview about what you can expect you are handed a rock with a message from the person that went before you. As you walk down the stairs your eyes adjust to the dark and you are given a couple of minutes in the space to take it all in. Admittedly it looks like someone has haphazardly strewn things around the room, but it is a single green chair that softens the space and allows you to settle in.
The door is closed and the voice of Alabaster Deplume, poet, performer, sidemouth saxophonist and method maker can be heard over the speaker. He is the creator of this experience and uses a mix of poetry, and soundscapes. I close my eyes and listen. Deplume mentions that you are alone in the space although the sounds had me opening my eyes just to be sure. At times it sounded like water was flooding the safe at others it felt like someone was walking above the safe. Using sonorous circular melodies and luminous tones it is easy to feel calm and one with the space. Maybe it is because we have recently experienced isolation periods during lockdown that I revelled being in that safe all alone. The lights continue to dim during the 20 minutes and when it is over you are invited to take a rock to leave a message for the next person.
I felt calm and at ease when I left so it was easy to write something nice for the next person. This experience will not be for everyone. If you have claustrophobia or are triggered by what is said throughout the experience you can be let out of the safe. The aim is to make you feel comfortable and at peace with yourself. It helped that I went in without expectations and it is said that each person will have a unique experience based on what they hear and how they interpret it. One thing that was repeated struck a chord with me, Deplume said “I will never know you and if I do I will not know you as you are now”. It was poignant and made me think about my recent interactions with people. Each day you choose who you present to the world, so the only person that can really know you is you. I left with a smile on my face and based on my experience I would go again. It would be interesting to see what I missed the first time around.