Reviews

Pocket Theatre Theatre

This weekend I was invited to participate in a Pocket Theatre show in central London. We rehearsed over the weekend, and then, Monday morning, over the course of a couple of hours, in ones and twos and fours, we all went into a very large coffee shop and did normal things there until the signal; a man played to his girlfriend, through tinny mobile phone speakers, a classic love song. At this point (apparently unrelated) a couple in the queue started kissing, then a tearfully moving phone call began at one of the tables, then two friends warmly agreed, shaking hands...

Then a few things happened at once; someone said ‘I know this is not the most romantic venue, but its now or never...’ (Inaudible muffles followed by quiet delight), someone else started reading a newspaper story about the coming cataclysm with approval, another came in and recognised a long- lost friend - they embraced - talk of the war. Two friends, talking about their plans for a friend’s funeral, burst into warm laughter. The events - low- key, natural, subliminal - snowballed; flowers were produced and tenderly laid, a very old woman was led totteringly to a seat where she spread very large playing cards, two mourners - tear-stained - ordered lots of milk, more vague but catastrophic news was read from a laptop with approval, strangers in the queue started talking to each other ‘you too?’ ‘yes, me too’, a couple of chin-dribblers wibble-wobbled their way in yawpingly, some small scale magic from one of the tables (levitating cutlery), the music got louder - but still quiet. A man and wife knocked their heads together, two more lovers reached a star- tlingly pleasant conclusion ‘it is finally happening’, someone unrolled a large poster that said ‘History is Ending’, a hearst passed outside, muffled music - the same song as the speakers, but live from outside. The rumour spreads ‘it is finally happening,’ more fundamental behaviour, general relief, doors flung open, music flooded in, a coffin entered followed by a carnival of flamboyantly attired orchestral brass, cartwheeling and sadly coroneting, a festival of the dead, children, mules and cripples; bannered with happy asteroids and cheerfully apocalyptic slogans. The place erupted in trombones and everyone, now half-choir, fell in enthusiasm, sad ecstasy and fel- low-feeling, inanimate objects were cared for, many nodding in shared yes, layered descants and the world dancing gave up to the friendly trumpets of infinite loss.

Reality computer game

Reality is a new multi-genre adventure game from Kamichan Software. Players start off in a crude binary two-dimensional platform world, which is very easy to comprehend and through which, it is easy to manoeuvre. As players ascend through various levels, the pixilated imagery becomes finer, the artificial intelligence smarter, the range of moves more and more nuanced and the extraordinary story unfolds - you, the player, have designed this world yourself, in order to learn to distinguish the difference between what is true and false.
  
Truth and falsehood in reality do not just mean what you see, but what you feel, what you want and, ultimately, who you are. Earlier levels attempt to subvert your awareness by offering the gratification of biological urges as a means to avoid frustration. In later levels you are tricked into an addictive response to unpredictable rewards and punished by a loss of phantom status. Finally, upon completion of level 999 players are given a code which operates an included headset which gives them access to a multi-sensual dreamworld of near infinite complexity and extent. The graphics are nearly indistinguishable from reality and the AI now appears to be completely conscious... but something is missing. It is here that one takes on the Big Boss - Nemesis - or “Reality” itself. Only by being able to perceive the difference between the self-fabricated world and the real world beyond will be you be able to escape. If you are at all fake, or unconscious, you’ll be imprisoned forever, and you won’t even know it.

(See Reality level Yawp and Ambition for further levels)

Under the Lake club
  
Last night I visited one of my favourite clubs; Under the Lake of Victoria park. The entrance is a lift, housed in a squat cubicle about twenty yards from the edge of the lake. The baise-plush sliding doors open smoothly, like lifted skirts, and then tenderly clasp. The smooth round bakerlite buttons inside are of perfect finger resistant springiness with the slickest of clicks. The lift hums deeply and warmly and slides down, two stories, to the level of the lake floor. The door opens to a warmly-lit walnut wood-pannelled tunnel, wide enough for four people to walk side-by-side. Lines of thin green candles stand in panelled alcoves, each decorated with intricately wrought soviet-stucco latticework and polished brass fittings. Walking down the passageway, our fine boot heels clacking beautifully on the polished wooden floor, we feel like we are being led towards the secret chamber of a modern goddess, who plays billiards, and has an elegant cat on a leash. A few yards ahead the light changes; the tunnel, lying along the floor of the lake, becomes a lead-glass lined passage, through which the clean bottle-green lake can be seen, along with silver flashes of crucian, tench and rudd, which shiver and dart past the thick knobbly glass.
  
We reach a heavy oak door, at the far end of the passage, and push it open.
  
The club is large enough to comfortably seat two hundred people around the sixty or so candle-lit tables; light mahogany disks, scattered on split-levels and scattered around the semi-circular stage. The decor, of a piece with the passage, is silk and velvet, mahogany and brass, a mixture of Edwardian, art-deco, socialist realism and touches of Edo. Cones of light spread up the walls from behind mother-of-pearl sconces, over the paneled walls and tall windows, reaching up to the clear vaulted glass dome above us, through which we see the lake and the ripples of light that swim down to us from the wobbling park sky, high above.
  
The mood is cheerful and friendly, warm faces warmly lit, chatting or quietly waiting. Many knew each other, those that didn’t soon will; for the structure of the club assists meeting; around the edge of the hall are alcoves, some room-large, some cubby-small, in which are various recreations; a mini-life drawing class, a long buffet table, a couple of pool tables, a decent-sized trampoline, a few fancy-dress wardrobes, a library of board-games, amusing glossy books and so on.
  
People are dressed eclectically, some loose and careless some astonishingly formal. There are slick suits, hemp slacks, polka-dot a-lines, patched-jeans, velvet gowns and rabbit suits. What all the clothes have in common is that they are tailored and made from exceptionally good materials.
  
The entertainment begins. Gentle classic Jazz with a weird electro undercurrent, modern bluegrass love-songs, tight Serbian orkestars and long periods of ambiance. One band, Lula, is an autistic looking bald Eurasian guy of indeterminate age playing Tourette’s rhythms on bongos and tabla, a massive-fingered Santa-Claus on accordion and a gorgeous English rose playing the fiddle. Their gypsy longing makes the Chinese lanterns sway and the Cardamon coffee they brought along taste particularly sweet. On the open-mic a psychedelic Victorian governess in hooped stockings charms the fish from afar and a tall man with an exceptionally large Adam’s apple and bug-eyes sings intensely about being a psychotic doctor who cures his patients by sending them mad. While singing the patient’s part he hits an extraordinary falsetto, his mouth forming an ecstatic egg. Then a stomping big-band outfit sends the club into a lindy-hop whirl, tables pushed to the sides.
  
The live music was interspersed with recorded music, beautifully choreographed dance outfits, silence and improvised theatre. We watch players being born from sofas, Roman masters ordering their servants to fire weapons made of other people, and we the audience are roped in to be firing squads, and marshes, to guide the blindfolded and sing of helicopters eating cupcakes... but, of course, you had to be there.

Finally the MC, a tall massive-nosed moustached man wearing a white jump-suit and a long black scarf, takes to the stage.
  
“And now, Ladies and Gentleman,” he cries, white teeth flashing, “the deluge!”
  
We all take out our breathing apparatus as the mighty gears began to turn and the portholes open, throwing gushing jets into the club.
  
“Let the curtains fall!” he cries, and the mighty door of the dome falls open, cascades pouring down, sweeping us all up in a mad frothing catastrophe of arms and legs and scurfing furniture.
  
The whole club and all of us in it, are swept wild and turning up into the maelstrom of the lake, up into the night, turning until the club is submerged, in the warm waters of the midnight lake, hung there suspended.