I’ll start by saying that I’ve rewritten this opening line three times now – really not sure where to start with this one!
Having been through innumerable horror attractions, there’s a certain familiarity that you gain with how these events are run. For example, it’s becoming super easy to tell when someone’s a plant – over time, we’ve identified the pattern that they usually follow. And it’s something that we wish we hadn’t have noticed as we now inadvertently look out for the tell-tale signs. There’s also a level of fatigue – if I never go through a hooded maze ever again, I won’t be sad about it. It’s a burden that you carry with anything that you enjoy; the more that you do, the more that you begin to transcend the ‘magic’.
We’re relatively new to Faceless Ventures’ productions having only attended the last three (including Intérieur) but something that we’ve picked up on already is that they’re constantly mixing things up. Diary of a Deceased was promenade theatre. Is There Anybody There? began as a straight-up paranormal investigation show featuring real-world techniques that segued into the fantastic.
And then we have Intérieur (in collaboration with Quietus Horror), an event that I’m at a bit of a loss to explain.
I knew next to nothing about this show before arriving – scant detail had been released and so when the three of us were instructed to walk down a stairwell and knock on the door at the bottom, it was truly a leap into the unknown. I had no idea what was waiting for us behind that door. Were we going to be greeted by a friendly face or had we just dived straight into the deep end? I won’t say too much about the show’s content but the only thing that we really had to fear beyond that door was ourselves…
The next 45 mins threw us into a variety of situations as we were forced to confront our inner demons under the auspices of a warped science experiment. Made up of three main scenes along with an introductory and closing piece, Intérieur was never predictable with each section having its own distinct vibe.
The first thing that I have to single out was the acting. Usually, in scare events, it’s the aim of the actors to scare you (obviously!) and they’re mostly not too subtle as to how they go about it. Talking about things that I’ve seen a bit too much of; overly loud and militant characters definitely fall into the ‘seen it once too often’ bracket. Here, we went through the entire event solo and it was populated with actual characters; from the (deceptively?) affable scientist who greeted us to a psychiatrist who started out indifferent but, by the end of my time with her, made it very clear that I had been a massive disappointment. And I felt guilty for having let her down, genuinely leaving that room wishing that I’d tried harder to give her what she wanted from me. These people weren’t interchangeable cliches, shouting in your face and then slinking off into the darkness. All of our interactions held meaning and the cast did fantastically well considering the madness that was swirling all around us. It was probably the most important thing here, this was an intensely personal experience and so the performers had to credibly engage us in the story.
I’d venture to say that Intérieur wasn’t conventionally scary. There were maybe a couple of moments where the show took a visceral turn but, for the most part, this was a slower, more insidious ride. But, at the same time, it wasn’t exactly an easy 45 mins! We were asked to consume ‘hallucinogenics’, confronted with a bowl of water and had many hands close tight around our necks! So it was definitely more hands-on than the majority of stuff that you might experience in the UK but none of it felt particularly rough. Forceful but not painful. It was more about putting you in an uncomfortable situation rather than running you through an endurance test.
Speaking of uncomfortable – the section that gave me the most difficulty? The scene with the psychiatrist… In a really weird way, this was definitely the strongest part of Intérieur even though I hated it the most!
You see, in the other rooms we were greeted with physical manifestations of our psyche – i.e. other characters that were engaging with us and whilst they certainly didn’t make my time pleasant, they led our encounters. With the psychiatrist, I was essentially in control of how our conversation went and that was actually pretty scary! It was up to me to give this character what she wanted and, man, I really struggled! To me, that was the purest moment of the show pitting me against myself. It was truly me versus me rather than butting heads with an eloquent cipher. Any failings that I had were brought to the surface in those five/ten minutes, even if I didn’t want them to be! And that she kept pushing and pushing me just made it all the more stressful. Add to this the fact that she wasn’t the only presence in the room and you end up with an extremely testing experience!
At Faceless Ventures’ previous show, Is There Anybody There?, I specifically had an issue with the audience interaction element at the tail-end. You can read about it here. Whilst the psychiatrist scene in Intérieur was essentially the same thing, it was completely successful this time around because I was in charge of it. If the conversation became increasingly difficult, it was down to me and no-one else. There was no-one I could will to speak up in the desperate hope of a reprieve. It was all in my hands.
On a personal level, I do struggle somewhat with these more interactive elements if only because, a lot of the time, I genuinely don’t have the answer. It’s one of the reasons why these reviews are written and not vlogged or podcasted – I need time to think about things! In Somnai I was asked what time means to me – I’ve never sat down and really thought about that so to be asked that question completely threw me! Likewise here, the information that I was asked to give was something that I didn’t really, mentally, have to hand! I do actually think it’s time I created an immersive show character for myself, someone that has thought about all these lofty, insightful things!
Another strong element of Intérieur was the psychedelic angle – there was a decent chunk of trippy imagery in the show and it was ably backed by some really disconcerting sound design. Whilst that was effective on its own, one of the ‘hallucinogens’ that we were instructed to put in our mouths produced a weird, tingling sensation for the majority of the show. It was a super clever addition because, even though I knew I wasn’t under the influence, I couldn’t quite trust myself because of that weird feeling in my mouth! The show played further with this concept of disorientation with three very different sections providing odd contrasts, as though everything unspooling in front of us was part of a bad trip. Which, I guess, it was! It all made for an experience that worked brilliantly without the need of a conventional A to B narrative.
I left Intérieur with a feeling that’s quite rare these days, when you know that you’ve witnessed something special. Faceless Ventures & Quietus Horror are brave for attempting something like this. Though I didn’t find it to be that tough, it’s obvious that this could be a bit much for some but the fact that the guys behind this show went for something that was decidedly less mainstream is to be applauded. And, that said, they didn’t resort to really blatant shock tactics to achieve their goal.
With an ever-increasing number of horror/scare events popping up in the UK, Intérieur offered something that was definitely on the road less traveled and was all the better for doing so!
Intérieur - Faceless Ventures x Quietus Horror
+ Fresh experience
Intérieur was just a fantastic 45 mins, something that the immersive horror scene in the UK is in desperate need of.
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