Enda Walsh’s Rooms

As part of its new cross-arts season — coined Life Rewired — The Barbican is hosting a series of pop-up events including its first VR experience.

Collisions at The Barbican

Lynette Walworth’s Collisions

Winner of one a prestigious Emmy awards, Collisions is centred around an indigenous resident who recalls the devastating effects of Britain’s decision to test its atomic bombs in remote Western Australia in the 1950s.

Filmmaker Lynette Wallworth uses slow-moving drone shots, an impactful score from composer Max Richter and musicians Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, and an immersive sound design from George Lucas’ much-lauded Skywalker Sound. The 15-minute experience is viewed on a Samsung Gear headset in cosy basement theatre The Pit, with watchers able to swivel around in moveable chairs to observe the simple yet effective 360 degree experience.

While the project is slightly dated — originally premiering at Sundance and the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland back in 2016 — and therefore not as technically savvy as more modern VR pieces, it’s worth watching for its reminder that everything we do as humans makes an imprint on our futures.

Collisions, The Pit at The Barbican, Silk Street, EC2Y 8DS. Tickets £10, until 20 April 2019. Review by Tiffany Pritchard.

Rooms at The Barbican

Enda Walsh’s Rooms

Further along in The Barbican’s Silk Street Theatre, Enda Walsh’s interactive installation Rooms invites, smothers and haunts audiences through a tour of five different visual spaces.

Sitting down for tea with an obsessive bureaucrat who is slowly being consumed with madness in his desire for a colleague, or chatting with an obsessive housewife whose cupboards are secretly filled with smashed china — such are the hazards, and profound rewards, of stepping into the fascinating, gritty and compelling theatre experience.

Continuing the centre’s Walsh programme (his searing Cillian Murphy vehicle Grief is the Thing with Feathers plays on at the Barbican Theatre has just finished its run), five seemingly innocent white cubed spaces greet the small groups of visitors who await the first door to open into a textured, nuanced, fully equipped demi-monde.

Each living, working or despairing space — most perform two or more of these functions — invites visitors to fully inhabit it, sometimes for just 15 minutes. Rusty, broken tools, a box of crackers or a half-opened drawer are on display as musings on life, love and the daily grind; while crackling light and sound bursts punctuate the spiteful, funny and forlorn observations of invisible room occupants that can be heard reading Walsh’s richly textured prose (actors include Niall Buggy, Charlie Murphy, Eileen Walsh, Paul Reid and Donal O’Kelly).

Though audiences will be relieved to return to the cool air of the surrounding theatre space, the soul-sick journeys of Walsh’s prisoners will not fade for those willing to sit with his wondrous, if miserable, characters for a while.

Rooms, Silk Street Theatre at The Barbican, EC2Y 8DS. Tickets £30, until 19 April 2019. Review by Will Tizard.

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