Through the RIFT with no Spoilers

I am very fortunate to know some incredibly creative people in London, which meant I was lucky enough to be one of the Alpha-testing audience members for RIFT’s new, and already sold-out, immersive event.

Macbeth.

Macbeth RIFT All rights reserved.

Moving on swiftly! 🙂

If you’ve never experienced it before immersive theatre puts the audience right in the middle of the action and is something for the more adventurous theatre goer. In this case we were met in the street by release form bearing stewards who walked us down to the base of an imposing 1980s tower block in Tower Hamlets.

There we were greeted by a rambunctious Eastern European Military-styled chap called Uri who wore an extremely large hat and advised us how we may experience some disorientation moving between worlds. Moments later we were walking through the Rift itself into an alternative reality somewhere in the early late seventies early eighties.

Being a bit of an old hat at the immersive theatre malarky, from the hugely elaborate big-budget Punchdrunk and Secret Cinema events to many others, I was still blown away by the logistical challenges the RIFT team have overcome with an exceptionally clever running schedule enabling backstage teams, and teams of actors to seamlessly create a completely believable, if utterly bizarre, world around their expertly rotated audiences.

Throughout your trip you are chaperoned by a guide; we were very fortunate to have the wonderful Anushka taking care of us, who told us about life in the reality we had found ourselves in and guided us through the labyrinthine maze of rooms in the “Castle”.

The play itself takes the Macbeth many of us are familiar with and turns it on its head, actors stride and argue and fight amongst the crowd, drawing audience members into conversation, then drift into the main storyline as domineering ghosts; playing out a tragedy the audience and their guides are powerless to stop.

Having been part of the first audience to set foot in this strange new world I recommend comfortable shoes, an open mind, and a willingness to interact with your guide and their colleagues. Participation will make your experience all the more (un)comfortable and intriguing as you become caught up in the strange alternative reality that has been constructed around you.

As mentioned before their show is currently sold-out, however should the run be extended I recommend that get yourself booked into this strange and discombobulating fantasy world and let your imagination get taken for a ride on a challenging and clever interpretation of the Bard’s work.

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How to Taxi Bangkok Style

Following a hefty dose of jetlag, I decided it would a good idea to educate Westerners on how to use taxis in Bangkok. Not tuktuk, that’s a whole other ball game, just plain old taxi saloon cars.

I am a Londoner who grew up in the Westcountry of England, and have successfully used a combination of Black Cabs, taxis on ranks on the streets, and private cabs. In the Westcountry taxis are generally very expensive so they are a rare but necessary treat as the local bus services are often atrocious, in London I use cabs  only  when all other public transport options have been exhausted, or if I am in the company of those who prefer not to travel with the masses.

Bangkok is big.

Bangkok is big.

So here we go.
Bangkok is big and incredibly busy, I mean seriously mind bogglingly big and busy like you will never see in Europe, if you think London and it’s great buildings is big and busy, you are in for a bit of a shock.

On our trip regular metered taxis come in three distinctive colourways; yellow and green, red, and my personal favourite dark pink. Flagging down a taxi is easy, its the next bit that gets hard.

First tip:
Never ever assume that a taxi driver knows where they are going, unless it is one of the airports, or one of the very well known tourist destinations like the Khaosan Road, the Grand Palace or one of the two airports. A driver will say they know exactly where you mean to get you in the cab, so be prepared with maps , addresses,  district names. If possible get maps of the area cached in advance on Google Maps to track you (my Nexus 4 phone allows me to do this without roaming charges whilst in airplane mode). We also discovered, quite to our surprise, that some drivers are unable to read a map either, so stay alert and keep your eyes out for signs. Thankfully most in the city are in English and Thai.

As mentioned before Bangkok is enormous, there are thousands and thousands of taxi drivers vying for a fare. Almost every street has a Thai name and a Western name, and chances are your pronunciation of either is going to sound unfamiliar. There are also many districts that sound similar, so make sure you have the pronunciation right or you’ll end up somewhere completely different! Be patient with your driver because even when it comes to the biggest hotels, chances are your taxi driver has never been to it before and it is unlikely they will ever do so again!

Second tip:
If you get the hotel concierge or front desk to hail you a cab for a jaunt into town, be aware that you could end up paying three times the regular price. Same goes for negotiating with a cabby parked outside of big hotels, they are there for big fares and won’t budge on over-inflated prices. The word “Meter” is universally understood, so make sure the driver agrees before you get in the cab and make sure that it is turned on.

Third Tip:
Toll Roads. Oh yes, these will be anywhere from 25 to 50 baht a pop and you will need cash ready to hand to the driver.

Fourth Tip:
Seatbelts. Seatbelts are for show. Now and then you will get one where the seat belt catch is there for use, chances are you won’t. Hold on tight!

Fifth Tip:
Be adamant about your destination. One taxi driver, interested in the fact we were tourists from London decided to ignore our request to take us to a private pier rather than a public one. It just so happened his friend owns boats and was offering trips up the river for 33 times the price of local ferry tickets. When we declined we had to deal with the friend and the taxi driver trying to cajole us into taking another taxi ride or cheaper (yet still massively overpriced) trips up the river. Ten minutes walk later we found the public pier and had a fine journey up the river.

Sixth Tip:
Learn the lingo, or cheat. There are a multitude of apps out there. I found Thai Lite on Android was great for directions, as the app will speak the Thai for you. Helpful if you are on one of the six lane freeways that run through the city and your driver decides to have a bit of a panic!

Seventh Tip:
Take the public ferries if you can. Getting off the road and away from the epic traffic jams it will do you a world of good. 🙂

Last but not least be polite and laugh it goes a long way.

Enjoy yourself, Bangkok is one heck of a city. 🙂

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Hibernation is Over!

*kicks away the tumbleweed, dusts down some spider webs*

Looks like I am going to have to change this blog from “sporadic updates” to “random updates” at this rate!

Apologies readers, I have been caught up in the world of new business*, a broken mobile phone camera, and full time work so failed to keep up with the blog, however I have been making some effort in other corners of the internet as you will see I have been trying by adding reviews of restaurants and interesting places to Trip Advisor.

Anyways, so what next for the blog?

Well I got a new phone with a snazzy camera so first off, here’s a picture of one of the hidden gems of central London, the Fountains at Barbican as viewed from Gilbert Bridge:

Image

Well we’re off to Budapest for an extended weekend, and have heard there are many an interesting sight to behold so stay tuned.

*Social Results

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They put a mountain inside a shed!

Once upon a time I went skiing with my school on a dry ski-slope in the exotic county of Gloucestershire, the slopes were made of worn plastic fibres which lacerated the ear of one of our teachers who tumbled on the way down. It was an odd experience, that was followed by a awkward ride on an agitated horse, never to be repeated and ne’er a ski slope (nor horse for that matter) has been seen since.

Then we arrive in the 21st century, in a town called Hemel Hempstead and they’ve gone and put a mountain into the biggest shed I’ve ever seen. Alright, when I say mountain, I may be slightly exaggerating, but it’s as near as damn it as you are going to get just outside of London.

The Snowcentre is an amazing piece of engineering, it contains two slopes covered in snow generated inside a giant freezer. Sitting in the cafe bar watching people hurling themselves down on skis and snow boards is completely mesmerising, definitely worth a visit even if you don’t fancy doing it yourself.

Oh, the skiing. Well I tried. The beginners lesson I attended lasted two hours, our skiing instructor was funny, and very supportive of our rather uncoordinated attempts to make it down the hill in one piece. Though we fell and launched ourselves into nets, and I had spent the first hour in boots a whole size too small feeling sick with pain (my fault there – don’t believe that ski boot sizes correspond to real world shoe sizes!), it was fun and having recovered I may just do it again.

As for real mountains? I’ll stick with the big shed for now, you can’t fall off the side. 🙂

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Up, and over and back down, at The O2

With the cold weather and dark days slowly closing in it’s easy to forget how warm and lovely London was but a month ago.

At the beginning of September in a gorgeous 28°C (82.4°F) heat we grabbed our carabiners latched on to the safety line and made our way to the top of the O2, formally known as the Millenium Dome and most recently rebranded as the North Greenwich Arena at the London 2012 Olympics.

It’s enormous, so much so that my intense fear of heights didn’t even bother to kick in as there was tent, tent and more tent for yards beneath the fabric walkway all the way to the observation deck.

On the deck the view was stunning, and intriguingly confusing. The structure sits on an ox bow bend in the river Thames so many of the city’s famous landmarks appear completely in the wrong position at first. Thankfully there is a panorama guide of points of interest at the top that makes things a lot easier!

The descent is steep and a lot of leaning back and shuffling was required in order to get down, when I suggested that I thought they should add a giant slide to our guide he enthusiastically, and much to our delight, informed us that there had been rumours about adding a zip line (aerial runway). 🙂

You’ll have to get through the somewhat cringeworthy introductory video at the beginning, but after that it’s a great experience and I recommend it. I was also very please to hear that it is also wheelchair accessible, so everyone can join in the fun.

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Hitchcock Hilarity In London

So I was going to archive this blog, but I just couldn’t bear not sharing with you a brilliant theatre experience I had at the Criterion in London.

Having seen lots of fringe and alternative theatre we wanted to see something mainstream that wasn’t a musical so, having spotted some glowing reviews, I decided to have a punt on The 39 Steps.

We were not disappointed, it was absolutely brilliant. The comedy timing was spot on and the cast appeared to be rather enjoying themselves as the audience laughed and applauded throughout the performance.

I couldn’t help thinking of a youngish Cary Elwes (Robin Hood Men in Tights era) every time the poor lead character Richard Hannay , played spectacularly by Andrew Alexander, desperately tried to deal with the increasingly ridiculous circumstances he found himself in. Talk about the British stiff upper lip, this was a master class!

Though I had never seen the original Hitchcock film it did not matter and even I managed to spot some of the brilliant comedy homages to his movie back catalogue.

So, if you find yourself in London and fancy something truly brilliant that will leave you with a smile on your face get down to the Criterion.

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Ooops, hello there!

Sorry its been so long, I am still here, I’ve just been pottering around the other side of the internet!

Having been caught up in a whirlwind of online shenanigans for a delightful organisation my attention to all things Bimblely has been significantly affected.

Never fear, there is much to write and share.

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The Invisible Circus

In 2008, at one of the lowest points in my life, I had one of the most amazing experiences when a dear friend convinced me to go on an adventure with her to an event called Carny Ville in Bristol.

I had little idea what to expect, except that my love of steampunkery would be more than catered for, so we got dressed up an off we went to Bridewell Island.

The moment I stepped into the courtyard I was blown away, I felt as if I had been transported to my idea of heaven. There were flaming Victorian streetlights, a lovely gender-blending paper boy, a flaming moving piano, a punk barn dance collective called Cut a Shine (who to this day I try to see as often as possible!), amazing punky aerial displays above ridiculously small crash mats, the Glitzy Bag Hags who scrambled my brain with a song about doing naughty things with David Hasslehoff, hoopers and a gentleman charlaton trying to hypnotise us. It was incredible.

Now three years later in London, I heard that there was a film being screened about The Invisible Circus, the collective who had put on this amazing event, so with just a few hours notice I found myself turning up at the Channel 4 building after work.

The film is called Invisible Circus: No Dress Rehearsal and follows the story of the fabulously talented, creative and hardworking group, from squats to private buildings and all of the events leading up to that amazing night at Carny Ville.

I urge everyone to see this film, to see how hard people will work, and to what lengths they will go when they are driven by an all consuming passion to create something magical. Watching the film brought the back the feelings of awe and excitement I had felt that night; I hope that someday I will feel that again.

Whenever and wherever The Invisible Circus next appears I will be there to play and cheer them on.

Fabulous.

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Zombiepocolypse

You have left work and arrived at a designated meeting point close to London Bridge.

You have approximately 2.8 hours to get to survivors of the Zombie invasion in order to get coordinates that will allow you to navigate the area and arrive at the resistance HQ.

Additionally you will have to avoid being tagged and infected by rather fast moving Zombies as you go.

This is 2.8 hours later, a real time game devised and organised by Slingshot, and its terrifying, difficult, and funny as hell.

Before this, the only time I was likely to break into a sprint would be if I was being chased by an axe wielding tiger. But I ran like hell screaming like a girl, as did my team mates, when the Zombies appeared on street corners and under bridges.

This was my first experience of a “pervasive” or “location-based” game, it was run like clockwork, and despite knowing it was a game I was drawn into the crazy story.

So did we make it? Three of our seven strong team (me included) were infected and despite making it to HQ there was nothing they could do for us, except hideously effective Zombie make-up.

I shall be on the look out for more of these games, though I must say the bar has been set very high. This was a treat, and as I am aware it will be taking place in other cities in the future I say go for it.

It should be noted that this was an extremely physical challenge; those with mobility, or physical health problems should check with the organisers of these kinds of games before buying tickets.

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A Kind of Corporate Chaos

Imagine someone took reality, shook it about a bit and dropped you into a universe that was similar, but somehow completely different to the one you normally inhabit.

This is immersive theatre.

Last night I was lucky enough to go to the Office Party at the fictional company Product Solutions, and it involved every kind of over-the-top office party drama you could imagine and many you wouldn’t.

Instead of passively watching the audience is subsumed into the company, given ID badges and allocated to different departments at this wonderful site-specific venue. Before long an elaborate story unfolds drawing the audience into the fray as things become more challenging and surreal.

Let the Games Begin

Not one for spoilers; if you have never experienced immersive theatre before this event is something special and I strongly recommend giving it a go. I may just make my way there again before the end of the run in January.

Motivational Speaker?

If you can’t make this event, but like your entertainment to be challenging do try to find something immersive, it’ll change the way you look at theatre for good.

I do caution that this is not likely to be enjoyed by reserved people who do not like to get involved, or find burlesque a bit too much. This event is about as loud and raucous as it gets, and as there is nowhere to run you have to just suspend your disbelief and go for it.

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