Immersive theatre comes to Hong Kong with "Project Mayhem" - Hashtag Legend

#culture /art & design

Immersive theatre comes to Hong Kong with "Project Mayhem"

Nov 07, 2017

A hint of things to come at "Project Mayhem"

The mysterious, immersive theatre troupe is back in Hong Kong for the third year running, with a brand-new show that will leave you breathless, literally. Without giving too much away, we can safely say that “Project Mayhem” requires comfortable shoes and something…supportive. In previous years, the production has involved boats, abandoned islands and more. This year, it takes place over several floors of an abandoned warehouse, each revealing new secrets and presenting new challenges.

Immersive theatre, even for devotees of the arts, is, at its core, awkward. That’s intentional. It intends to push you in ways regular stage productions cannot, forcing you to find your own truth and experience the story with all senses. At their best, they blur the line between reality and fantasy, enchanting the audience into believing that they are living the story. At their worst they are forced and painful for everyone involved. Thankfully, this new show is much closer to the first category. To learn more about the process, we spoke with Director Richard Crawford, and you can read his interview below. 

Before booking, information is sparse. You know it’s a dystopian world, “one of modern history’s most twisted tales of fraternity, violence and all-out psychological warfare.” That’s about it, everything else including location, instructions and password, is sent through upon ticket purchase, which help builds anticipation.

This year, for the first time ever, there are two ticket options: normal and “Dinner & Show”. We previewed the “Dinner & Show” option on opening night, which was an immersive three-course meal by The Butchers Club and a bottle of wine by Wine Brothers. The food and service were faultless, but far too heavy for “Project Mayhems” demands. For reasons we can’t explain, we’d recommend some drinks before hand, and a proper meal for after the show.

There isn’t so much we can say without spoilers, so we’ll just jump to what people want to know: is it worth it? The answer is simply, yes. Definitely, even. Is it perfect? No, of course not. The way in which the actors were able to manipulate situations, and people—herding the audience to strategic points at just the right time— was impressive, though not always seamless. Go with an open mind (and comfortable shoes!), and a sense of adventure. The process isn’t explained as well as it could be, especially for an audience unfamiliar with immersive theatre, but you have near free-reign to explore the site and become part of different ‘scenes’. Use it, as it enriches the experience as a whole. Ultimately, the show was a great night out and completely different from anything else Hong Kong has to offer. Even if you don’t like theatre, it’s worth checking out. Read on for an interview with the show's director, Richard Crawford, which offers some behind-the-scenes insight on Hong Kong's only immersive theatre show, "Project Mayhem".

Project Mayhem brings immersive theatre to Hong Kong for the third year in a row

This is your third year bringing Secret Theatre to Hong Kong, how does our city differ from other city’s you’ve performed in?

Each city has its own unique charm but Hong Kong is my favourite city to create shows. There is a sense of adventure as the city is new to the art of immersive theatre. The audiences have a real appetite for what we produce and this fuels the energy of the shows.  

What you do is so different from traditional theatre, is it difficult finding actors who can embrace the immersive-nature?

The casting process can be problematic, for this show we did castings in London, New York and Hong Kong but in the end it paid off as I have assembled a fantastic group of actors for our new show.

Because the audience is such an important part of the performance, how do you guys rehearse?

The elephant in the room when you are rehearsing is designing each scene with the audience in mind. It adds another layer of work to the process but the end result is the scenes are deeply exciting with the audience involved in the action.

I know someone called the police on one of your actors a few years ago at the pier, thinking she was a beggar, have you had any other mishaps?

Ha! Yes, that was a memorable moment…but that's how real it can be for the audience!

Do you work with local talents when you’re in the city, like makeup artists or designers?

I have been really pushing over the years to work with Hong Kong-based talent, and this year we have a major influence from the city. Four of our production team are Hong Kong-based, as are the lead actors. It took time to nurture those relationships so that we could all produce the best possible production, and this year it's really looking like one of our strongest shows to date.

What are some real no-no’s for immersive theatre experiences?

Calling the police?  

Will you be a lover, or a fighter?

What can we, as audience members, do to help make it the best show possible?

Just engage as much as you are comfortable with. As a company we don't force you to do anything. We want you to have your best personal experience.  

When you first came to Hong Kong, the show took place over land and sea - was that a logistical nightmare?

Erm, YES! Typhoons, Jungles, haunted mansions  and speedboats...a volatile cocktail.  

Do you think you’ll ever bring something like this to Hong Kong full-time?

Of course. We are looking into that possibility right now.

A common complaint in Hong Kong is that the theatre and live-music scenes are lacking, what’s the best way for people to support the arts?

When anew show rolls into town, buy the ticket, take the ride!

What can we expect from this year’s show?

In one word, Mayhem. The show is Project Mayhem after all.  

“Project Mayhem” runs until 10 November, and tickets are available through Ticketflap. For more information and reviews check out their website here.

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Sarah Engstrand