What: Winterlab: And the Birds Fell From the Sky
When: Friday night. Runs to Feb. 3.
Where: Intrepid Theatre Club
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
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Well this one’s a trip.
And the Birds Fell From the Sky is a full-sensory experience somewhere between a hallucination, a film and that Halloween party in Grade 4 where you put your hand in a bowl of brains that was really spaghetti.
The first things you need to know: It’s only 20 minutes, so register for a time slot. And you’ll experience it in pairs, so bring a buddy. “Experience” is the correct word, not watch, because you are a participant. But it’s more in the “raise your right arm” kind of way, rather than “do your best Sean Connery impression” way, so no need for stage fright.
Things get weird from the start, when you and your partner are ushered outside to a barred gate at the side of the building, instead of the usual stage door. You’re led to two seats. The wall is filled with posters of missing persons and offers of rewards for information about menacing clowns. A TV screen shows coverage of that time last year when 5,000 red-winged blackbirds mysteriously fell from the sky in Arkansas.
You put on goggles in the next room to watch a movie (think virtual reality) and headphones for audio instructions. What follows can only be described as surreal.
The narrative is linear and timeless all at once. You were born 10,000 years ago and you end up in the backseat of a car with jibberish-talking clowns. When you open your eyes in a field, you can smell the aroma of flowers, and when it starts to rain you feel mist on your face.
At one point, the voice in your ear asks, “What if you slept through the best parts of this story,” and you wonder what you’ve missed.
It’s totally absurd. But this absurdity is calculated and these clowns are trained. On the website for il pixel rosso, the chosen moniker of Brighton creators Silvia Mercuriali and Simon Wilkinson, they cite strategies like “autoteatro,” a 2007 method of including your audience in the performance, and “the rubber hand illusion” (a psychological phenomenon where you see something touching a fake hand, then feel it on your own without seeing it, and your perception is that you’re feeling the fake hand.)
So know that this is slightly more studied than those spaghetti brains.
If you’re a conservative theatre-goer, skip this. But if you’re bored of the sit-watch-then-stand-for-ovation routine — or you used to do LSD and miss it — go on. Enjoy the ride.
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