Review – Auditory Hallucinations

May 4 2013 | By More

* * * *   Perfect pitch

Robbie Gordon with Michael Collins in Auditory Hallucinations. Photo © Creative Electric

Robbie Gordon with Michael Collins in Auditory Hallucinations. Photo © Creative Electric

Bongo Club
Tue 30/Wed 1, Sat 4 May and tour
Review by Thom Dibdin

Feel free to play with the actors – but please don’t hurt them…” The usher handing out headphones to her audience is quite clear about the rules.

Immersive theatre is one thing. You buy into the idea that you are part of the scenery, however passively, and that you will be moved around the performance space. Immersive companies with any credibility view their ushers as performers.

But the open possibilities of this particular instruction are almost too numerous to contemplate. The brain, already honing itself to face the unknown events of an interactive performance, quickly switches into its most fearfully imaginative mode.

Once inside the darkened main space of the “new” Bongo Club, and the reality is rather less scary. The headphones are to be worn at all times by the 15-strong audience unless an actor indicates otherwise. They pipe a warm, sensual breakbeat into your ears. The space is unprepared, apart from tape on the floor marking out a giant diagram of the brain.

And the three performers don’t demand to be played with either. Not in any of the nefarious ways you might have been fearing. At first they ignore you, rolling around and playing with each other as children might play.

Soon fragments of recorded speech start breaking into the sound track. Stuff about memory and a “guide fox”. Random events added to by the actors, who are now using a microphone to add their own recollections of childhood – and talking with earnest sincerity about the way that the brain remembers.

More to the point, they are talking to you. Taking off their headphones and engaging you with their memories of intense moments – a kiss, a smell, an out-of-character transgressive act.

A realm that is little travelled
Laura Fisher in Auditory Hallucinations. Photo © Creative Electric

Laura Fisher in Auditory Hallucinations. Photo © Creative Electric

It’s weirdly powerful stuff, a glimpse into your own memories set off by these others and by the playful nature of the interaction.

The three actors are your friends now, even though you don’t know their names. By the time they arrange their audience into a little tableau around the brain diagram and leave the room, just 35 minutes after you entered it, they have succeeded in taking you into a realm that is little travelled.

Without narrative as such, director Heather Marshall with sound designer Joshua Payne, take you on a trip inside your mind. Michael Collins, Laura Fisher and Robbie Gordon are just your guides. And although the memories are found – garnered from pop-up studios around Scotland – they are repeated with such sincerity that they become your own.

That, partly, is the point. That the way we process information – the sampling and selection and splitting between short-term memory and long-term memory – means that our memories might be unique, but the way in which we access them makes the trigger events shared.

It is telling that Marshall credits a certain Charlie Tonner as “guest artist in playing”. At four years old, Tonner apparently spent a whole morning putting the company through their paces, teaching them how to play again. It is this levelling, taking the audience back to a shared experience that is all but forgotten in adulthood, that the minds begin to unlock, and the memories flow.

Is it play or a play? Actually it is both, and as such is a fascinating, exuberant and thought-provoking piece of immersive theatre.

Running time 35 mins
The Bongo Club, 66 Cowgate (underneath Central Library)
Various times.
Full details on Creative Electric website:

Email to reserve tickets.

Auditory Hallucinations on tour:
The Bongo Club, Edinburgh
30th April 8 & 9pm
1st May 8 & 9pm
4th May 2 & 3pm
The Old Hairdressers, Glasgow
7th May 7, 8 & 9pm
8th May 8 & 9pm.
The Space, North Berwick
14th May 7.30 & 8.15pm
Kelburn Garden Party
6th & 7th July. (included in festival ticket price)

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