Grounds for divorce

Napisał (») 4. 1. 2016, czytaj: 233×
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I was at once a guest arriving at a wedding and an audience member coming to a play when I arrived at a large, tall, all-red cuboid.

This is Shanghai's newest theater, built for the purpose of staging local director He Nian's immersive theater debut Where is the Groom?.

Immersive theater, a concept that originated in the US and is fairly new to China, breaks the wall between cast and audience.

Viewers can explore any part of the theatrical space at their will, follow different characters around, and touch props.

The production team has put a lot of thought and money into building the theatrical space that is made up of more than 10 rooms across two floors.

The story starts in the dreamy, all-white wedding ceremony hall at the heart of the first floor.

It is 20 minutes before the wedding, and the groom has disappeared. Nine people - the bride, the maid of honor, the best man, the manager of the wedding venue, the wedding host, the stylist, the groom's aunt, and the groom's friend decide to look for him.

As the characters set off in different directions, some alone and some in pairs, audience decide who to tail.

There is no need to worry about missing out on too much of the performance. After 15 minutes, the performers converge in the wedding hall where a clown, signifying magic, announces that time has been set back 15 minutes.

Audience can then choose another party to follow. This happens one more time, meaning audience will get to see three 15-minute performances, all set across the same 15-minute time period.

Through different parts of the story, you will find yourself changing your mind as you try to work out the reason for the groom's disappearance - an affair, cold feet, or a kidnap?

Unfortunately, most of the story lines are trivial, boring and melodramatic. Cheating and accidental pregnancy, for example, feature in two threads.

True, this is where some major twists and turns take place, but irrational behavior, prolonged meaningless dialogue and uncomfortable insinuations make them almost unbearable.

The thread featuring the groom's aunt and friend is not even remotely related to the central story, and is apparently thrown in just to make it appear more loaded.

Then there is the cheesy language and poor acting of the two performers, who could be mistaken for amateurs.

Fortunately, the threads concerning the waitress, the host, and the stylist win some points by encompassing a lot more drama, suspense and action.

The experience is most fun when different threads and characters interact, sometimes briefly and with little impact, and sometimes more extensively and with more importance.

Such encounters help the viewer to tie together the different threads.

Contrived interactions

While there is interaction between the performers and audience, it is just skin-deep.

The audience does not get to ask the actors questions, or in any way change the course of the story.

Instead, actors often address their speech to random audience members as they move about.

A few times, a character needs to hide in a closet or toilet. They will then take an audience member along with them. Perhaps this is supposed to be entertaining, but it doesn't make much sense.

Overacting is a constant problem, and made more labored when viewed at such close quarters. It makes for an awkward night, which you spend as much feeling embarrassed for the cast as enthralled by the story.

To add insult to injury, tickets are priced at 688 yuan ($105.98), meaning you should feel no guilt in leaving this performance jilted at the altar.

GT: In what ways did the show surprise you and disappoint you?

Wu Yuanyuan, advertising

The show is nice in that the actors are very engaged in their roles, and have certain interactions with the audience. The design of every thread is passable, and you can see clues from different perspectives.

However, I think one can get a full idea of the story after just two rounds, so a third performance is pretty unnecessary.

Some minor roles are redundant, and there was not the kind of real twist that I was looking for. Moreover, it is sometimes hard to follow the fast-moving characters.

GT: What was the most exciting moment during the show for you?

Xu Rui, amateur theater director

When I was watching a quarrel between the groom and another character on the second floor, the clown patted my shoulder and took me to a secret chamber.

He showed me a magic trick and told me the biggest secret of the plot, which I wasn't allowed to tell anyone else.

The clown created a mysterious atmosphere, and that one-on-one experience made me feel very special.Read more at: |

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