Friday, 7 July 2017

A Dark Room...

Welcome, to one of my sporadic blog posts, that I fire off about once every six months...

There was a full moon in the sky the night I died. I didn’t realise, because I was in a dark room, but as my spirit made its way home there it was, looking down at me, like a face glowering out of the darkness. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

John Robertson is a man who, like many men, does a stage show. Unlike many men (or, perhaps I should say, like many of the more unsavoury men), he invites you in a dark room, and demands many decisions of you, and should you make the wrong one, you’re dead.

It didn’t begin auspiciously. My phone battery had died not long after reaching the venue, and having failed to convince anyone to come along to the venue, was now unable to be contactable. Worse still, I was to enter the dark with no means of contacting the world outside. The future was looking bleak already.

It was made somewhat less bleak by the drinking of two pints.

We descended into the darkness. It’s a venue I’ve been to many times before, illuminated by a red neon sign, but now it was dark. Only the bar at the back of the room was lit, whilst jazz music played. The front row already claimed by people who were clearly fans, I opted for a seat in the second row.  Seated before the projections of words meant to calm the soul, to put the audience at ease. “The Dark Room,” it said, reassuring us that we were where we’d planned to be. “You are about to die,” it declared, reminding us of why we had come.

The audience filtered in slowly, many of the people clearly veterans of finding themselves in a dark room, greeting each other. We sat, in the darkness, old friends and total strangers, the same two messages flashing across the screen in front of us, music lulling us into a false sense of security. A man darted around, setting things up. A wizard of sorts, who eventually disappeared behind his curtain to do important things. Only once the room descended into a darker sort of darkness did the man reappear. A different sort of wizard, perhaps, for he was one who wore lights about the shoulders and shone a torch upon his face. And, indeed, with his long white hair, his mock English accent and a certain gleam in his eye he seemed to be channelling Gandalf himself, albeit a younger Gandalf who might’ve been a jock at university, and had never quite given up the wearing of impressive pads about the shoulders. He entered the Room with a villainous laugh, and strode around the room around as he explained how things worked. Which was good. I’ve never been in a Darkened Room with such pronounced initial letters, and so was eager to understand the rules. I’d descended into the darkness with a strategy, to see how people tackled the Dark Room, because I’d been warned by sage voices before hand. “It’s not horror,” those sage voices had told me, “but there will be many dead.” And indeed, there were, by the end of it.

If I were to evaluate my strategy, in retrospect, I would say that there were three fundamental flaws. Firstly, and you may have anticipated this one, was that I was sitting in the second row and, should participants be chosen from the audience rather than be volunteer (as, indeed, I had in the Werewolf Live show a week before*) then I was in a bad position.

Secondly, I had chosen to sit in an aisle seat.

Thirdly, and perhaps my biggest single mistake, was wearing a white shirt in a dark room.

The man’s face, suddenly very close to me and illuminated by torch-light, grinned down at me. “You,” it said, between grins, “What is your name?” And I answered. But, alas, my strategy having already fallen apart, I was unable to correctly answer. “Oh no,” said the illuminated face, suddenly not grinning. For there is only one correct answer to this question. And only now, having experienced The Dark Room, can I answer – truthfully and honestly – what my name is.

It will not do for me to reveal that answer to the unititated.

“You awake to find yourself in a dark room,” the face announced. I was pressed for an answer, a selection of one of four possible answers which were shown on the screen.  Four options: SLEEP, FIND LIGHT SWITCH, ABANDON HOPE or GO NORTH. This was familiar ground, at least. I’d seen these options on the website. “Go North” I declared, with some authority.

I was henceforth rebuked for my folly, the man’s voice echoed by those around us, no doubt familiar with fools who seek to venture north in the darkness. And so my brief adventure began.

And brief it was, though memorable. It ended shortly after I’d clicked my heels together three times, and clearly enunciated “There’s no place like Leningrad,” at which point Stalin appeared unto me. And you know what happens when Stalin appears to you?

You’re dead. And you will be told this several times. And everyone will tell you this.

I was the first to die. I was by no means the last.

And so other ‘brave adventurers’ (mostly people who cowered away from attention, but also at least one very enthusiastic girl), all with much the same name, ventured forth, awakening anew in a dark room. And so, as a room, we sought to exhaust the possible pathways out of the darkness, in the slim hope that one of us might walk away with £1,000. And though no-one did, some people unlocked Plot Points along the way. One person in the audience earned a plastic duck for interjecting with a well timed funny joke (whilst another was merely taunted with one, for a substandard joke). And finally many of those who walked the path in the darkness earned a ‘gift’ from the table of wondrous things. Such things as a box that may, or may not, have contained a cat, such things as a rare computer game, such things as a ‘flamboyant potato’ (again, you might just have to venture into The Dark Room to discover what this is. Or, I don’t know, do a Google search. It’s probably there). I didn’t win a gift, alas, but given that one of the gifts was a front headlight from a car that had been discovered lying in a street, I’m quite glad I didn’t have a trophy to take home with me.

And so, having all of us died (for, with the final democracy round the entire audience had all died collectively) we ascended once more from the dark, blinking in the daylight of a relatively light summer’s evening. Slightly less sure of ourselves. But maybe, just maybe, considering returning to that Dark Room, some day, wherever it appears.

The Dark Room will be materialising, very soon, at the Soho Theatre. Check it out HERE!

* That’s another blog, one I’ve not yet got around to writing. Sorry Ghost Master.

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