The last of the ghostly revellers have left the building and Battersea Arts Centre (BAC) has finally peeled away the last of the cobwebs and velvet curtains from the mega-successful Masque of the Red Death. The forest has been uprooted from the foyer, the corpses have been taken out of the basement, the grisly bridal chamber is once more an office: Edgar Allan Poe's residency is over. It is now time for Burst.
Running until 24 May, Burst is a season of exhilarating new work by some very bright and extremely bold performing companies. Among the highlights of the theatre strand of the programme is Goat Island's final ever show The Lastmaker which will be a big send-off for this company that has brought challenging, award-winning performance to audiences over 20 years. A choreographer and dancer invites his father to perform with him in Repeater so they can spend time together in the elderly man's retirement.
In the Intimacy strand, audiences can enter into participative, sensual performances, often one-to-one with the artists but for those who want to see the freshest ever new theatre, there's the Scratch strand of invited artists presenting brand new work with space and time for feedback from the audience - a unique opportunity for artists and audiences alike to engage with one another while a new piece of work is 'scratched' out of the air. There is music too, from the Immortal Orchestra who bring circus jazz to the crowds. The full programme can be found here - make the most of the 3 for 2 ticket offer and prepare yourself for a very busy, buzzing time.
To give you a flavour of what to expect, here is Londonista Hazel with a tale of the very unexpected on the night she turned up for the Burst performance called Smile Off Your Face by Onetroerend Goed...
Whenever I come to BAC, something strange always happens just to the left of the main stairs. It is purely coincidental that this is where the ladies' toilet is situated. Nonetheless, I have built my own stage set and unravelled a Rabbit's secret in the studio space, I have been locked in a Victorian living room for a seance down the corridor, I have been dressed in a white robe and led through a metaphysical conundrum involving the complete disintegration of reality. And then I handed in my ticket for Smile Off Your Face and embarked on yet another adventure that starts with at BAC and ends with me gibbering in a corner of the bar, giddy with the extraordinary experience I went through.
They put me in a wheelchair. And then tied my hands together. And then blindfolded me. I didn't know where I was, who was with me and what was about to happen when I was rolled through the doors into the studio. It felt like a diverting trip up and down the room to suggestively tropical sounds, urban sounds, people having conversations... just as I was beginning to disdain the modest thrill of it all, the chair stopped. A face came close to mine, breathing on my neck and then he took my hands, this strange man pressed my fingers against his stubbly cheekbones while he stroked my startled face. Oh dear. I disdained too soon. It was going to be very intimate. And I wasn't going to be able to see a thing or protect myself with the blindfold on and my hands bound. The thrill of realising this as I was pushed against a wall and had my photo taken with a rude, bright flash was terrifying in a disturbingly sexy way.
It wasn't just wheeling around to music. A woman pushed me over on to a bed where we lay and talked about London. Another woman let me feel the lace on her dress then fed me marzipan and chocolate before I slid down a ramp. And then... then the blindfold came off and the smile did indeed go off my face. The experience I had had so far was mine, created entirely in my head and the sensations of being touched, being moved, being pushed and whispered to. When I was able to see where I had been, who I was with, what exactly I had been through, I felt cheated somehow. Reassured, far more certain and definitely less scared than when I was blind and bound. But the smile had gone from my face. I was back in the real world full of hard edges and fact, and the experience of being entirely in my own manipulated reality had ended. It was an experience I hated, feared, loved and thrilled to, and still long for now it's been over for several days.