Ged Barry, David Harradine, Jo Manser, The Show’s the Thing

Review in Issue 18-4 | Winter 2006

Activates every fantasy you might have concerning abandoned buildings, alternate worlds, theatres, ghosts. Activates also every fear — or at least at first. The Show’s The Thing was a light and sound installation set in the abandoned Victorian theatre of Alexandra Palace (last in use over 70 years ago for a Gracie Fields show, also called The Show’s The Thing). It was for an audience of one, persons admitted at half hour intervals through a little-known door, admitted remotely by the stroke of a Bakelite clock on the wall outside, entering alone to pass down a makeshift tunnel into another world.

Without saying anything too specific, because I hope they will bring it back, the show set each of its audience members off on a gentle emotional arc. At the start, the overwhelming feeling is anxiety. There is isolation and darkness, and I think perhaps the Opera Phantom type fantasies – so effectively drawn by all the mystery surrounding the show – are running at full power. But this shifts into relaxation and a sense of well-being as the audience member becomes a benign witness to something beautiful and distant. It felt a little like watching nature; it was that same kind of feeling. The final mood change is to bemusement, exiting out into the foyer of the Palace’s ice-rink, assaulted by horrible ice-rink ’90s pop music which I’m going to pretend not to have recognised.

It was honestly captivating. The keenest observation I can offer here only makes sense if you saw the show: I didn’t crunch my mint until I was back outside.

Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Jul 2006

This article in the magazine

Issue 18-4
p. 29