This time last year we had just finished a two week project called Fortnight. I waxed lyrical then about what was essentially a love affair with the city and was eager to join the new adventure when contacted by Mayfest.
Instead of Fortnight, there was a new interactive and immersive piece called Magna Mysteria by team Mercurial Wrestler which consists of Becca Gill and Jay Kerry. The two were funded as Theatre artists in residence by the Pervasive Media Studios. Their aim, to “create a unique form of immersive audience led performance, inspired by the pervasive nature of the media around us and the ability to make the impossible possible.”
There were four encounters between the performance and the punters. A wagon in front of the old Vic, the Siren in some old public toilets, a dinner meant to be bizarre and a final showdown at a circus tent by the train station.
It started with a policeman with a cough and a short speech. Then inside the wagon which was rumoured to have a grandfather clock beating to the rhythm of a human heart I found myself drifting off. The drama was lacking in cohesion and inaudible but there was something about the Magician. I was to select a card and place it on the table to my right but it was to my left and it took me ages to figure out where to find the card.
Then there was the Siren who I didn’t see and maybe that’s not a bad thing because to paraphrase Bette Middler “Honey, I don’t do performances in public toilets anymore”, even old beautiful public toilets on Woodland Road. I showed up while holding a baby on one hip and was told the siren won’t see any children. We left and I couldn’t make it back.
I was utterly sad that I missed the dinner with the Morrelini Sisters and then was unimpressed and annoyed when I managed to attend the following evening. The performance was impressively designed and staged but ultimately seemed a bit lacking in direction.
I was promised a personalised narrative throughout this journey and there was nothing of the sort unless you count distributing tarot cards by star sign and then making people change seats.
It was the pointlessness that annoyed me the most. There has to be more to a production than an interesting use of make-up and stage scenery. A storyline was alluded to with mentions of the Magician but it was done in a similar style to the depth of characters in a Mills&Boon book (no offense to M&B).
The worst part was the culmination of what was meant to be the most exciting showdown Bristol had ever seen. Instead it was again an event that was disparate and pointless. Everyone gathered in a circus tent. All participant names were written out in a circle around the room and we all went and stood by them. We were then told to gather in to the middle of the room again.
Then individual participants received phone calls and were told what lines to speak out to present part of the narrative. A shame that the person doing the telling could be heard at the back of the tent. I don’t know what they were saying because of all the distractions.
We were then told to listen to the individualised 20min mp3 recordings (according to tarot cards) and congregate with others who had the same. At least I think that’s what we were meant to do. No one really had much of an idea and we couldn’t hear the recordings either. It was 20 minutes of pointless wandering about. When the time was up we were told to go outside and some other woman led us somewhere.
My friend and I went to the pub instead. It was the best part of the whole Magna Mysteria.
I didn’t understand the point of the story or the sequence of events. There was little that was personal to me and there was little that provided any type of narrative journey. It was a disappointment and not only because of the delayed communications and the promises that didn’t deliver. It could have been amazing but they didn’t figure out how in the last two years and I don’t know how because no part of me can even imagine what they were trying to achieve.