Battersea Arts Centre (BAC) is having an unusual autumn. While most performing arts venues start September with a new programme of plays, workshops and special one-off events, BAC is bolting its main doors and sending all those who dare approach through the back door and around each room in the venue for the mind-blowing Masque of the Red Death. We have had a range of experiences in this extraordinary production – and it just keeps getting more exciting as BAC adds specially commissioned performances to take place within the sprawling Edgar Allan Poe inspired event for masked audiences to stumble across as they roam around the Gothic-horror extravaganza.
With breath-taking ingenuity, every room is decorated and incorporated into the Masque of the Red Death – except Studio 68, a plucky little studio space around the side. This is an outpost of the BAC, hosting brand new and returning performances that constitute the more traditional BAC fare. Though nothing is 'traditional' at BAC…
Studio 68 is arranged as a relaxed cabaret bar that is entered on the side street, completely separate to Masque of the Red Death. While all is dramatic high Victorian doom and gloom in the main building, this place has candle lit tables and a tiny bar complete with smiling barman, a little light music and audience members mingling with actors in remarkably relaxed pre-show small talk. This was the atmosphere for The Lacuna Voyages, a delightful presentation of landscapes, love and the great outdoors by Propeller. The portable ice-capped mountain, portrayal of arduous arctic expeditions with Lego figures and zoom-in options for the audience who each got a pair of binoculars was a gentle and joyful way to learn about the people who love the great outdoors enough to live and even die for it.
We imagine the atmosphere will differ greatly as the Studio 68 programme continues – next acts for the small, intimate space are John Hegley bringing Christmas Creatures to SW11, Will Adamsdale bringing his Human Computer troubles from the Edinburgh Fringe, pigeons, snowflakes and some singing and dancing caught somewhere Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. It seems the only place to be this autumn is BAC.
Studio 68, a season of small cabaret performances at BAC. For the full programme go to the BAC website here.
By Hazel Tsoi-Wiles