“Welcome to the Royal Academy”
Lundahl & Seitl’s Symphony of a Missing Room was my first sampling of 2014’s LIFT festival and it is hard to imagine it being bettered. The Archive of the Forgotten and Remembered sounds like a Doctor Who episode in the making and in some ways, it was a bit like an adventure in space and time. If you’ve booked and not been, I strongly advise looking away now; if you haven’t booked, it is sadly sold out but I’d recommend trying for returns as it makes for an amazing experience.
The Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition is the venue, our small group gets ushered in for a sneak preview of a show that hasn’t yet opened, and then the journey proper begins as headphones are placed on our heads, followed by blindfolds which don’t quite block out everything, and we’re lead on a fantastically, wonderfully disorienting experience, the like of which I don’t think I’ve quite ever had before. Seeing as much theatre as I do, it’s a remarkable thing to be so transported by something, especially in the overcrowded and often underwhelming immersive market.
Hands as light as feathers guide us around, voices as soft as gossamer wings usher in instructions, as we travel along, well, who knows where. Somehow we seem to cover all sorts as the terrain underfoot changes in texture, we end up outside, in lifts, in tunnels, in vaults, temperatures alter dramatically and sound effects add their own confusion as it becomes near-impossible to work out where we’ve gone, where we are, where we’re going.
The cumulative experience is extraordinary and once which is all the more powerful for its lack of conventional narrative or formal structure. Talking to the rest of the group at the end indicated just how differently we had all taken it in, much in the same way that people respond so differently to works of art, much as the critical establishment might try to convince us that they know best. All I can say is that this is something I will remember for a long long time, much like that first, life-changingly fantastic trip on You Me Bum Bum Train.