Mischief La-Bàs's theatre group

As part of the Brighton Festival in May 2004 theatre group Mischief La-Bàs’s completely took over Queen’s Park for three nights for their production of ‘Painful Creatures’. This is an extract of the review by Lyn Gardner in The Guardian on Saturday May 8, 2004:

Rolling up at the entrance to the “unfairground”, every member of the audience is offered a tarot card that is a passport into a world that celebrates the delights of pain in the manner of the Victorian fairground freakshow. Once past the woman pinning worms (not real) by their tails, you are through the pain barrier and into a bizarre fairground where you can wander around stopping off at the various installations or performances that are advertised with large brightly coloured banners.

Passion offers a maze of plaster-cast heads on poles; Abandonment has the scary pleasure of Hansel and Gretel, while at Rejection you can shoot arrows into a modern St Sebastian. If you want Transcendence then it is off to the sausage barbecue.

The difference between this and most outdoor performances is that the audience’s attention is not directed to one place – at least not until the obligatory pyromania, which is not well integrated and feels like a crowd-pleasing add-on. Because you can go where you like, and interact with the performers and other audience members, the experience is potentially multi-faceted. It can be riotous or quietly contemplative. There were times when it felt akin to doing the Stations of the Cross, particularly at Desolation: four Victorian lampposts with flowers tied to them as if it were the scene of a fatal traffic accident.

It is a great idea and one that should be developed, particularly in the performer-audience relationship, which is still hesitant, and in the relationship of the finale to the whole. As they say, there is no gain without pain.

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