You are standing on Lavender Hill in South West London, outside a building that was once a town hall, a building ravaged some months ago. The cause of this fire remains a mystery. You enter through two sets of glass doors where there’s a press desk. This must be a theatre. You must be a member of the press. They ask your name. Check your wallet. Yes, there it is written on your card.
“I’m Will” you say casually, as if that’s actually your name.
It works. They give you your ticket to see a show called A House Repeated. They are expecting you to watch the show and then write something about it, it appears. You’ve apparently written about the artist before. They offer you beer. You decide it’s best not to hang around too long. Don’t push your luck. They’ll soon realise you’re an imposter. You make your excuses and head to the bar instead. It’s busy. Easy to blend into the crowd. There’s another show on tonight: a much more popular show. Everyone leaves the bar and heads upstairs to see the popular show written by the woman whose book is being sold in the foyer. It’s harder to blend in now. It isn’t long though before you’re ushered up to the room where A House Repeated will be performed. The audience is separated into two seating blocks facing each other and coloured batons are distributed. There’s roughly one baton for every four or five audience members. You wonder what these will be for…
The two performers start to explain what’s going to happen. We’re in two teams. We need to talk to each other, move the batons around. When you have the baton, you’re ready. We’re ready to start now. One of them tells the audience:
“You are standing on Lavender Hill in South West London, outside a building that was once a town hall… What would you like to do?”
The new you starts to explore the new Battersea Arts Centre guided by the first you and his companions. There’s another new you on the other side. Where are they? It sounds like the Battersea Arts Centre too but their BAC the same as our BAC. If we’re in the BAC, can we meet? Can we stand and face each other as we are doing now?
It’s a Sunday now and you’re writing a review of A House Repeated at the Battersea Arts Centre. You stop yourself from giving too much away about what happens. Different people will have different experiences as they explore this world in a format that will be familiar to those who played Seth Kriebel’s The Unbuilt Room or, indeed, to anyone who has played one of those old 1980s text adventures. Here though, we’re not trying to win, we’re simply trying to explore, to see what’s out there, to unlock secrets. I could tell you what happened when I did it but it would only ever be part of the story.
This isn’t to say that there’s no structure to the piece. It can only give the freedom it does to its audience by establishing rules and parameters very clearly. At times, it shifts from us creating the story to us listening to Borgesian descriptions of various indoor spaces. At one point, the creators hand over their world to its inhabitants, we inherit it from them. It’s an unhurried gentle piece of work, halfway between a storytelling game and a performance. There’s no particular pressure to participate. Anyone can choose not to hold the baton if they’re not comfortable with it. It’s when you choose to shape the narrative yourself however that the pleasures of A House Repeated reveal themselves.