Sunday, February 5, 2012


I will now be posting to my website (which is still very much under construction) so please visit

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Terrible Advice is terribly underwhelming

There's something to be said about finding yourself in your 40's and wondering what the hell happened to your life. There's also something to be said about settling for someone just for the sake of saying that you have someone. These things are brought up in Saul Rubirek's play debut Terrible Advice at the Menier Chocolate Factory but are never fleshed out.

Let's first take a look at how this "dark, dirty and dangerous play" is being marketed - because what is advertised does not resemble anything I saw.

"Stanley (Stinky to his friends) and Jake are best friends. Hedda and Delila are best friends. Jake loves Hedda; Stinky loves Delila. Stinky plans to marry Delila….until Jake shares some secrets and then gives him some advice"

Um Stinky does not love Delila, in fact he's bangin' his pregnant ex and saying inappropriate things to his students. And all of a sudden he decides he wants children - something Delila can't give him.

As for Jake. He loves no one but himself. When Stinky comes to him with his "I want children and I can't stop fucking my pregnant ex and then sharing my sad pitiful life with my pretty female students" woes, Jake rightly advises that he break up with Delila. Probably the best advice Jake has ever given as he himself is a former baseball player turned alcoholic sex addicted prat. Did he sleep with his best friend's woman? Of course he did. Does anyone care? Not really.

Jake does not love Hedda - he's merely settling as he can't afford to continue being a womanizing ass. And in fairness the middle-aged no BS-taking Hedda is settling too. Jake must be amazing in bed. Now everyone is talking about this terrible advice as coming from some deep seated love - Jake is obviously in love with Delila and he tells Stinky to make a clean break so he can swoop in with his smarmy smarmness and achingly bad poetry. Because women love smarm. And bad poetry. But the truth is Jake is an idiot and is incapable of really loving anyone. So this storyline falls flat. Nothing is real. Only pretended.

Over all the direction from Frank Oz matches the sitcom-esque writing. Some of it is well conceived and some of it detracts from the story. It's also apparent that the Menier has access to a car slicer as a side of a car is rolled out onto stage where Hedda does the cleanest and easiest flat tire change I've ever seen. She should work for AAA.

I'm mostly disappointed in/for Sharon Horgan. She's talented, hilarious and beautiful and I will always love her show Pulling. She deserves a better role than this. And she also deserves a better dialect coach as her sexy Irish accent morphs into a confused American accent. I had some issues with the other Brit actors at points too, but I'll let it slide as the acting overall was well done.

Overall, the story is simply not interesting and I could care less about the characters. Although there are moments of genuine laughter and I think once there was a glimmer of tangible characters, I left the theatre empty.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Kevin Spacey as Richard III

Richard III is my favourite of Shakespeare's history plays primarily because Dicky is one of the best villains of all time. He's deformed, has a chip on his shoulder (and  hump), conniving and manipulative and is able to woo the woman whose husband and father he had murdered in a matter of minutes. Needless to say Dicky is the guy you love to hate. And Kevin Spacey in this simple, modern and beautiful production helmed by Sam Mendes brings a twisted and captivating performance as the murderous villain.

Spacey completely owns the stage. He's assured, clear and captivating. Richard grew up in a corrupt and violent world where his father and siblings were killed whilst chasing the thrown. It's know surprise that this 'valiant crooked-back prodigy' turns to manipulation and ruthlessness to get the crown, even back-stabbing his brother.

Equally captivating and chilling is Gemma Jones as Queen Margaret who curses Richard and his posse and haunts the stage as her miserable grief and cold-hearted grasp on the Plantagenet family grips tighter as her curses come true. She howls and groans and silently marks her territory with an "X" as each victims meets their end.

And then, there's the second half - after Richard is crowned - which is filled with war and battle cries. We lose the intimacy of Richard's soliloquies as he's now yelling and battling it out like his father before him. It's long and boring and not nearly as sophisticated. We had such a build up with a psychological thriller and then is turned into a generic action genre. But here I blame Shakespeare, not Mendes nor Spacey - they did what they could in modernizing this classic. It's moments like this where I think our infatuation with the Bard is blinding. What's clear, however, is that this story of villainy is still relevant.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A Woman Killed With Kindness

Re-staging a classic play is a perfectly viable option. Cutting it, adapting it, throwing it around, trying on new eras, fleshing out relevant themes, finding continuity between then and now - are all things to consider when bringing an old drama to a contemporary stage. That is, after all, what art is about - finding, exploring, pursuing connection. But, sometimes a bold vision falls flat. And unfortunately Katie Mitchell's re-envisioning of Thomas Heywood's 1603 domestic drama A Woman Killed With Kindness fails to achieve any continuity. The tale of two women trapped in a male dominated world certainly still has relevancy, especially in Mitchell's 1919 suffragette setting.

The first is Anne Frankfort who has recently married John and is the virginal and virtuous woman - the perfect wife. John invites his best mate, Wendoll, to live in the house and whilst John is out on business Wendoll helps himself to his wife and Anne easily gives in. John, of course, catches them in bed together and instead of killing Anne, he sends her away, never to see her children again. She chooses self-starvation to lament her adultery, which sends her to her death bed. The other woman is Susan Mountford who's brother, Charles, prostitutes her out to their enemy, Sir Frances Acton, to whom he is deeply in debt. She refuses but in the in is forced to marry Acton.

Katie Mitchell put's these two story lines on equal par having the two household share the stage. The set is amazing with the Mountford's dilapidated Georgian home to the left and the Frankfort Arts-and-Crafts manor to the right. Throughout the piece Mitchell has introduce beautifully choreographed movements indicating the passage of time and the solitude these women share. But it felt, much like the split set, that I was experiencing two completely different texts - Heywood's text and Mitchell's vision. They were not cohesive, but rather played in cuts - as if Mitchell cut and paste chunks of Heywood's text into her contemporary, existential production. And it felt entirely dogmatic - oh look at how badly women are treated! And still are, this play is so relevant still! This is most evident by Mitchell giving the last line originally spoken by John at Anne's deathbed to Susan, who delivers it full of contempt "Here lies she whom her husband's kindness kill'd".

Although there were some beautiful, poignant and even charming moments they were not enough to lift up the whole. In the end I cared nothing for the characters, thought the acting was inconsistent, the direction even more inconsistent and felt like I was being preached at.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Hello, my name is Ashley and I like to play pretend.


My name is Ashley and I like to play pretend. I also like to play games, especially games where I get to play pretend. Lately, I've been playing games with a strong element of risk - a risk created in a safe environment whilst instilling a sense of thrill and excitement. These are game played in the real world and with other people - games are always better when they're real. When playing together there's collaboration and cooperation as we all want to play the game and keep it going. After all, anyone that cannot pretend that the games matters is no fun to play with.

Games typically happen within a specific time and place and must end at some point - however the affects of the game can linger long after the game has ended. I've broken into buildings, raced past guards, cracked codes, chased after characters and clues, and run away from zombies. I've experienced things from the silly to the scary to the exhilarating. Why? Because they're fun. And exciting. That is why we play games, and have evolved to play pretend. We take pleasure in the experience; even when that experience is challenging or even painful. Within the play-sphere the codes of everyday life are laxed, making us less self-conscious and more open to improvisation and creativity. Anything is possible....or is it?

With these immersive games I've played one major thing to remember is that they take place in the real world - not in a virtual digital world or cyberspace. That means we all must abide by laws of physics and the laws of the land. For instance, just because you're pretending to fly does not mean that you can jump off a building and expect to fly. If you get hit by a car and die in the game, you die in real life. Or if you're playing a zombie chase game you can't whip out a machete and cut off a zombie's head because that zombie was really a living person just pretending and you've just committed a very real murder.

What are ways that you still actively engage in pretend play?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

How Affect was Created and Transferred in From Playful to Sadistic: A Deviant Lecture Series by A.L. Steed.

[This was my essay about my final performance project]

Shaking in the back room, I try desperately not to make any noise. I want to get this fake blood out of my nose but I’m preoccupied with listening – listening to the silence. I think I’ve stunned them. Peter Brook in The Empty Space talks about two possible climaxes in a theatrical event – that of cheering and that of silence. Rather than being deafening, this silence sounds like music to my ears. A stark contrast to the all-consuming bodily and emotional experience I’m having in the back room. Finally, there’s applause interspersed with nervous laughter – a welcomed release from the silent tension.

As the audience files out, I eagerly rush to my bowl of soapy water, still shaking, to get the horrible fake blood out of my nose. Eventually the shaking dissipates, but my mind buzzes relentlessly – a typical post-performance high, but this is the most intense high I’ve ever experienced.

Perhaps it’s because of the intense vulnerability of the piece. In investigating the spectrum of deviance from playful to sadistic, I had to allow myself to go into the deep, dark scary place within myself. The progression to the point where I destroy the laptop needed the proper build-up.  So I went there. And it was terrifying – which, oddly enough, goes back to my initial lecture where I killed my classmates/professor with boredom. If I wanted to recapture that terror I felt in boring people, I would have to make the audience uncomfortable – make myself completely vulnerable. I have strong feelings when it comes to vulnerability. I don’t like it. At all. Which is a problem. I feel it holding me back both artistically and in life. And throughout this process, I could feel myself holding back – so I felt it was crucial that I go to the depths of darkness within me and share that with the audience. Granted what I presented was exaggerated or heightened but the thoughts, fears and sentiments are 100% me. I wonder if the audience sensed that.

I wrote these words not long after my performance, allowing enough time for the post-performance high to wear off enough to articulate what I had felt. My hope was to capture my feelings in the moment, but I must admit that I lack the proper mastery of the written word. This does poor justice to the thoughts racing through my mind, and the uncontrollable shaking that took over my body – a body responding to a high intensity atmosphere. The same atmosphere that was responsible for the silent tension and the nervous laughter. In order to properly unpack this atmosphere and the sensations going through my body during and after the performance, we must go back to the beginning of this process.

Having researched lectures and wondered why some were engaging and others were not, I determined that it had nothing to do with the content but the delivery. Boring lectures were presented in a dull, non-engaging manner. So I decided to give a boring lecture. I must say, I succeeded brilliantly on being ill prepared – the most important element in giving a terrible lecture.

With the laptop hooked up to the TV, I set up four chairs for my classmates and professor and a small table for myself with water and my notes. Equipped with my remote I began my lecture on deviant behaviour. After giving a concise sociological definition, I stumbled through slides, didn’t speak with confidence, avoided eye contact, said “um” innumerable times, and read off of my text-filled slides. In other words, I was boring. I mean really, really boring. I could see the blankness in my classmates faces, saw my professor’s eyes glaze over. They were in a boredom-induced coma. My tactic had worked. But internally I was Freaking. The Fuck. Out. Their boredom sent my mind into a panic. Feeling like I had surpassed my 10 minutes (although, I’m sure I hadn’t) I quickened my pace just a little and fast-forwarded through a few slides. I had a failed attempt to engage with them when I asked if they had heard of the Stanley Milgram experiment and gave a quick and muddled explanation of the famous experiment. Finally at the last of my slides I ended the lecture and then got out of character as quickly as possible and transformed back into “Ashley.” The Ashley that loves not just performing, but also entertaining. “Ha-ha – I’m not really boring, I fooled you!” I tried to explain with fervent nervous energy.

This moment of terror, of panic, of uneasiness was a defining turning point in my process. In order to recapture this affect, we need to break down step by step exactly what happened during this presentation.
1)    I intended on giving a boring lecture.
2)    I was successful in giving a boring lecture.
3)    I know this because the audience was bored.
4)    I know the audience was bored because I could see and feel their boredom.
5)    Seeing and feeling their boredom sent me into a panic driven frenzy.

If I a) intended on giving a boring lecture and b) was successful in doing so, then why did I have such a visceral response to boring my classmates/professor? Why did I feel the need to immediately explain my intentions after presenting? Where did this feeling come from, and why were all my “danger” synapses firing? Why did I feel the need to get out of that situation as quickly as possible? If I had planned this boring execution, then why did I feel so out of control?

The answer lies in the audience’s reactions. I had been focusing entirely on the production aspect of performance without giving proper consideration to how people would respond. There is only so much one can anticipate in terms of live performance. Thus the interplay between me as experience creator, audience as responsive, and me as a reactive performer became a defining feature of my research-based performance. If, as in scientific studies, research is a way to predict and control, then in a performance context it’s a way to test the audience-performer paradigm. I’m interested in unravelling that relationship, in how they affect one another and how that relationship affects both the performance experience as a whole and the creative process.

Admittedly this interplay didn’t become obvious until my first scratch performance. Now having begun building the deviant character into my presentation I could feel the audience responding. I was no longer playing to a black hole of participants in a boredom-induced coma – they were laughing, responding, engaged.

…because I could feel the audience responding, I no longer had the terror of presenting to an essentially dead space. I’ll never be able to capture that terror I had which is both incredibly sad and retrospectively beautiful. Now I finally understand the ephemerality of performance. I understand that no two performances are ever really the same from my personal experience as a performer; but as a performer, I’m supposed to capture emotions and sensations and then reiterate them time and time again. I’ve found the responsive repetition of performance quite soothing and relish in the ability of skilled performers to make that repetition feel new, instant, spontaneous. There’s something curious about the affect of repetition on the real emotion rather than the imitation. I’m not imitating myself and, therefore, will never truly capture that raw terror again. I don’t know how I feel about that.

Although I had determined that recapturing that terror as no longer possible, in that moment I had failed to recognize the possibility of another mode of transmission. And even though I had mentioned the role of a skilled performer, I had failed to recognize that a skilled performer also affects the atmosphere. I was also failing to properly interpret the cause of my initial emotional state of terror. I wasn’t actively feeling panic or fear and therefore concluded that due to the new shift in audience responsiveness I would never be able to attain that unexpected fear. Again, it goes back to discovering the impulses of fear and panic I had felt in that initial boring lecture. That feeling of panic came from a sparring between expectation and anticipation. I as a creator must play with and anticipate audience’s expectations. With this scratch performance, although I had begun playing with expectations, I hadn’t anticipated their reactions and thus lost all the uneasiness of my boring lecture. In other words, I was presenting new material but expecting the same reactions. Therefore the interplay between creator–receiver–reactor needed a proper playground to explore the audience-performer paradigm. If I wanted to recapture the uneasiness felt in the boring lecture, I would have to actively place it back into the fold. In order to do this, I replaced the fear of feeling out of control with my own fear of vulnerability. Therefore, I made myself vulnerable, uncomfortably so, and invited the audience into that vulnerability and state of uneasiness.

In creating the final project, I was now actively working on what I call the triangulation of affect, a play on Teresa Brennan’s seminal work on the language of the body and its Transmission of Affect. Although I was doing a solo piece, I had created two distinct characters and their interaction relied heavily on audience responses. These reactions were anticipated in order to create the characters. Although the deviant character of the PowerPoint was fixed, the lecturer, performed by me, was not. I was able to react to the audience in real time while simultaneously anticipating and playing out the sequence of the piece.

According to Brennan, affects are overwhelming emotions and the only thing salient about them is that they are transmitted. She privileges feelings over affects, because affects are thoughtless and not attuned to language and sensation. This inability to properly communicate affects troubles Brennan and although I was sceptical in this inability to process the physiological change that affect has on the audience it wasn’t until I actually performed that I understood her concern. After my performance, those I asked had trouble articulating what they just experienced. Many mentioned feelings but weren’t able to communicate exactly what feelings were felt. It’s as if the affect of my performance somehow short-circuited Broca’s area of the brain – making language production difficult. My own physiological shift immediately after the performance was completely short-circuited as my autonomic system shook my body ferociously until the energy eventually dissipated.

What happened in my performance to cause this? Where in my triangulation of affect allowed for this build up of energy or ‘energetics’ as Brennan discusses, i.e. ‘the study of the energetic and affective connections between an individual, other people and the surrounding environment’?  The connection between myself, the audience and the environment was made explicit in the structure of the piece. Using my basic understanding of the audience-performance paradigm to my advantage, I slowly shifted and shaped the audience’s responses. Whenever they would laugh or respond to the presentation, I would acknowledge it, thereby encouraging them to continue responding openly. Then came the shift from a cognitive interaction to a physiological or visceral response. As Brennan argues, we don’t just read bodies with our eyes, we read them with all of our senses. We smell fear, are attuned to the quickened heartbeat of nervousness, we tense up with others’ tensions. Affects are material things, meaning they have a physical impact, albeit an unconscious one. In other words, they created a physiological shift through a chemical and energetic response in the nervous system. It’s only after the affect has occurred do we become aware of them.

As my nervous energy grew, so too did the tension in my body – this tension transferred to the audience. They grew tense with me. They became increasingly uncomfortable in my own discomfort. Not only does my energy transfer to the audience but the charge continues within the audience as well. With the climactic crack of the laptop against the corner of the table, the audience shared a cathartic moment, a communal release. In inviting the audience to respond, in playing with their expectations and creating a highly charged atmosphere of uneasiness and nervous tension, I was able build affect into my project and able to facilitate it bodily, physiologically and thus transfer my energy to the audience, and in turn build upon their energetic responses. It’s as if, momentarily I had created a perpetual motion machine of affect as we continued to build off of one another. Although I am the creator of the affect, I still rely on the audience’s collective response – without it there would be no concentrated tension, no build-up and thus no subsequent release.  

Monday, June 6, 2011

I got turned into a zombie all in the name of research

I had the pleasure of spending last weekend with people who take fun very seriously. People who design and play games outside in the urban environment. A reclamation of sorts – not just the streets, but of games. Games aren’t just for kids, a lesson well learned at Interesting Games Festival (igfest) organised by Bristol’s own SlingShot. I tagged along with the Fire Hazard crew to do research on games involving risk and playing pretend.

Saturday I worked as a guard for Fire Hazard’s City Dash – a game where players must run around the city searching for and texting in codes while trying to avoid guards who will text in the players alpha numeric code (players must wear a number plate at all times) thus making them lose points. I had fun as a guard but my area was a park which made sneaking around to catch players near impossible. Luckily I had a new Canadian friend to keep me company as we watched people hide behind trees and run sideways (so as not to show their number plate. Overall things ran smoothly and people really liked the game. So yay Fire Hazard!

Later on I played a game called Mr Smith by Yao Song Ng. The premise – me must catch Mr Smith, who wears a white mask, and collect ribbons, but he can teleport (by removing his mask) and reappearing somewhere else in the city, in which someone else puts the mask on and becomes Mr Smith. A lot of running is involved and keeping an eye out. Oh and there’s also an evil Red Masked Mr Smith who will take your ribbons. My friend learnt this the hard way – we were following Mr Smith down an alley when he turned into the Red Mask and took her ribbons. We heard her yell “run” and took off. It was a fun game and perfect for the crowded market and surrounding area making spotting Mr Smith and then chasing after him difficult. I even ducked into a restaurant when running away from the Red Mask. Overall it’s a simple but well executed game.

Afterwards I did this thing called the Stimulator by Susi Glatt. You choose which stimulation you want (I chose Mexican Busride) and then you’re taken into a tent and step onto an elliptical. Her assistant throws a ridiculous hat on me. Then the madness begins. For mine, the music starts, there’s stuff blowing in my face, people are screaming, giant bugs attack me, and I so much more – I run faster on the elliptical thinking that I can get away which is stupid because obviously I’m not going anywhere but that doesn’t stop me from trying… I loved it. Totally absurd and silly – the two people running it are completely committed which obviously is what makes it work. I also enjoyed sitting outside the tent watching people queue up and wonder about the strange screams and sounds coming from inside.


Saturday night I played the main event: 2.8 Hours Later – a zombie chase game. I teamed up with a few of the Fire Hazard crew plus my new friend Sophie who I met while playing Mr Smith. As the name suggest – it is basically an epic version of tag where zombies chase after you and if you’re tagged you become infected and at the end of the game are turned into a zombie. This is seriously the most fun I’ve had playing a game ever – it’s exhilarating, fun, funny, scary, exciting, silly and serious, and definitely intense.

Before we started we were given the rules: If you see a zombie, run. That’s pretty much it. We were given points throughout to go meet the different characters to get to the Resistance – the end a point, but basically it was running away from zombies. We all had to repeat, “I am deluded” as to remind ourselves that this is taking place in real life and that we are not invincible so if we want to prevent ourselves from turning into jam we should avoid stepping out in front of cars. So our team of six (Nick and Alexis, Gwyn and Viv, and Sophie and me) gets set, ready and goes to the first point. We’re told were our first checkpoint is and start running for it. As soon as we turn a corner we spot zombies and immediately lose 2 of our team. The four of us plug on and spot another zombie. This one is fast too. My team runs on and I lag behind hiding behind cars and wait for the zombie to chase after others. I see my chance and run for it, catching up with the team.

We make our way to the first checkpoint, eyes open and watching everyone, anything that moves. There’s an infect girl inside a storefront window with her father outside who looks like he’s seen better days. He yells at us and tells us to go to the church – and so we do. We walk down the street and see the intersection has zombies so we go round to another street and see the church. There’s a zombie guarding it, but we manage to race by and get in to safety. We walk down the dimly lit aisle to a shrine for all those who are missing. We then turn the corner and see the priest who’s been tied up. He’s infected and is mad (as in cray cray) and shouts the coordinates of the next location at us. Upon exiting we catch up with the two people we lost in the very beginning and joined in with another group.

As we walked along the road we stopped to look at the map. An older man across the road asked if we needed any help – one kindly replied back, “No thank you, we’re playing a game.” The bulk of the group wanted to go round the street and then cut into the park but the four of us decided we didn’t want to do that so we spilt up. Sophie and I then spilt from Nick and Alexis. The two of us climbed up the side and peered into the park. Zombies were chasing down people but we could see the next location. I saw sophie take off and as soon as the coast was clear I took off too. I barely made it to safety. We saw were reunited with Nick and Alexis and soon after Gwyn and Viv come funning around the corner – Gwyn’s been infected (this is his third time playing and first time getting infected). We then go inside, there’s a man cutting up bodies. He’s a bit mental and completely freaks me out. We step over and on top of body parts. It’s seriously gross. He tells us we need to find a girl in the Galleries and so we’re off. We dart out of the building and zombies are everywhere. As we run, I slip and land on my right knee and then slid a bit. Determined to not get caught I jump back up and quickly limp back to my group.

My knee is throbbing and stings. I try to walk it off but it’s not having any of that. Our group of four (Gwyn and Viv are still with the meat man) runs over the next location. I’m trying really hard to ignore the pain in my knee and then I look up. The Galleries is a three-story shopping mall. My eyes light up. “We’re going to run inside a shopping mall!” I squeal. We’re told to go down to the ground floor to find packets of drugs and then go up to the third floor where we’ll find a young woman hiding out. She’ll tell us the next place to go to in our search for the Resistance. I have to say, nothing compares to being chased by zombies inside a massive shopping mall in the middle of the night. By far the highlight of the night. We go in and immediately see a zombie – he looks like he’s seen better days and isn’t nearly as coordinated as some of the others we’ve encounter so we quickly run past him only to encounter more. We see the escalators and race over and down. There’s a zombie blocking the centre and subsequent exit and two others by the other set of escalators and stairs. At this point I’ve lost my team. I run past the zombie and search for the packets of drugs. They’re not easy to find but finally I see one and quickly grab it. I’m right next to the zombies but I hide behind a sign and watch them chase after others. Then I see Sophie. She hasn’t found any drugs yet so I grab another one for her. We try to go up to the third floor, but I lose her again. I’m on my own and run up the escalators. Finally to the third floor I see the safety room is guarded. I wait for the zombie to go after someone and then book it into the room. I’m elated to see Nick and Alexis but there’s no Sophie. A few minutes later she rushes into the room. Our little four-some is reunited. We’re shuffled into a tiny room where we meet the young woman. She quickly takes the packets of drugs from us. There’s a cot and some supplies, you can tell she’s been here for a while and is too afraid to leave. We’re told our next meeting point and are sent back into the zombie-infested shopping mall. Crap. Now we have to go back down to the ground floor to leave. By this time there are people running around everywhere and zombies are guarding all the escalators and stairs. We manage to go down one floor on the stairs and then all hell breaks loose. We split up (again) and I try to race down the escalator, which is going up so I’m not moving very fast. Deciding that trying to run down and escalator going up is stupid I run back and race round the corner to the down escalator and just miss getting tagged by a zombie. I get down to the ground floor and see the rest of my team. Sophie manages to sneak by the zombie guarding the exit ad runs to safety without ever looking back. The rest of us run around the centre. Then Nick says he’ll distract the zombie so that we can run to safety. The definition of a true gentleman. The plan works and we run. And a few minutes later Nick comes running through to safety with a big grin on his face. What a guy.

We then look outside and see a zombie to our left and zombies to our right. Well, we need to go right so we take off. Again I lag behind as zombies chase my friends and I hide and sneak around the corner. Luckily the zombie has trapped someone inside a phone booth and is patiently waiting so I race past and catch up with the rest of the gang. We went around a corner into a courtyard and found a homeless man called the Gatekeeper who told us about zombies in the process of turning and that we’d need to trick them somehow to get by. We go up some stairs and around a corner then down the street. We come up to the pit (a pedestrian underpass) and see the female zombies who are clearly out of it. My plan to trick them is to just act like a zombie. That doesn’t last very long as it’s dark so I freak out and just run for is while aggressively screaming at the zombies. Over in a corner we see a girl and her boyfriend whose been attacked. They beg us for help and tell us were the Resistance headquarters are. We thanks them and continue our journey. By this time Sophie is properly freaking out. Everyone who passes us she earnestly asks, “Are there any zombies over there?” Some play along, others keep their distance.

We turn a corner – “I know this area,” I say, stopping in my tracks. It’s a shady area with lots of streets and alleys, be extra cautious. We briefly take out the map. I look at Sophie who turns to look at me – her face frozen with fear as she yells “Zombie!” and takes off. Before I know it the zombie has me in its clutches. One second. That’s all it takes. I let my guard down for one second and was attacked. Sophie and Alexis take off and Nick and I run around the corner. I’m epically ticked off now. I was determined to make it to the Resistance unscathed. We walk up the road and see a zombie hiding behind a car. We run past and I turn to a gate but quickly discover it’s the wrong one as I crash into the locked gate. I’m trapped and another zombie comes and infects me. Defeated yet again. “Fuck my life” I shout at the zombie. Finally I run around the corner and make it into the Resistance. We all queue up to go through processing. (The rest of my team is already inside). By this point my knee is throbbing and I joke, “Ok, someone get me a beer and a medic, in that order.” Up top, a woman in a full body hazard suit asks if I’ve been infected. “Yes,” I reply with a sigh. I then go through a scanner which separates the survivors from the infected. Those of us who are infected are taken through a factory-like process in which we are quickly and effectively turned into zombies. Then it’s downstairs to the zombie disco! I find my team and grab a beer. Then I ask one of the organisers if there’s a medic on site as I’d like a second opinion on my knee. Two medics come out to take a look. Both were lovely and we laughed about my injury. Although my knee was badly bruised I’m chuffed that I have a real medical report saying that the problem is: “Fell on R knee and slid while running away from zombies.” Amazing – when real life and pretend play collide.

What an exhilarating, albeit exhausting, game. It was well planned and professionally executed. The actors were fully committed, the simple story line and melee of characters were sharp, and the zombies were absolutely terrifying. The creators behind 2.8 Hours Later are to be applauded, as this is definitely the standard that all participatory theatrical events should be judged by.


The next day I was definitely feeling sore from the night before. I decided to take it easy. That morning I went to an informal game designer brunch where the designers discussed why they make games. We talked a about taking ideas from others, money, games for kids vs games for adults, rules, I talked about risk, the ideal game, where we’d like to see this medium go, etc. etc. It was a good talk and useful for my dissertation (I think we’re going to compile notes as there was too much background noise to record the chat, if so, I’ll post them).

Afterwards I played Cowgirl Cowhunt by Catherine Herdlick from San Francisco. There were cows, cowgirls, an Indian (as in Native American), and a wrangler. We played in one of the main plazas – cows had to search for fodder (clothes pins) to fatten up. Cowgirls would brand and bring in to cows for gold. The wrangler would steal cows and then sell them for gold. And the Indian (me) would put out more fodder and take money from cows that had more than one coloured fodder on their back. It was fun and laid back which was nice as I was still sore from the zombie run.

That afternoon was another City Dash with Fire Hazard. I was guarding a different area this time and caught 8 people. It was another successful game (for the most part) and people really enjoyed it.

I had an early train back to London as I had an MA dinner so I wasn’t able to play any more games. I had an amazing weekend, met some awesome people, played fun games, and all of it was in the name of research for my dissertation on participatory theatrical events. And I’m now completely enamoured by this medium. Not only do I want to play more, but I also want to get involved in creating games.

Here’s to my summer of dissertation fun fun fun.