Mulder and Scully could have saved themselves some grief and a lot of flashlights if they’d known that evidence of extraterrestrial life could be found by joining an actor-led tour of a sparsely guarded Notting Hill car park in 2013.
The conceit of this promenade piece – kicking off the Intransit Festival of Arts and produced by ImmerCity – is that the place has been turned into a laboratory to examine strange life forms found in a space pod that has crashed there. Our presence is part of a publicity exercise arranged by the private company behind the project.
As a die-hard sci-fi fan, I enjoyed the old school BBC TV serial premise: a spaceship crashes, scientists investigate and things go wrong. It’s classic ‘Quatermass’. But convincing sci-fi is a tough gig without a hefty budget or canny direction. ImmerCity stumbles here. It’s not just the unrealistic lack of equipment; there’s too much papier-mâché and gauze on open display.
But the biggest problem is the on-rails feel of the whole thing. Evidently some thought has gone into the ecology of the creatures and bits of space coral we’re shown; but we aren’t supposed to talk to the scientists and we have to move to the next room when a whistle’s blown.
At one point, a UFO nut bursts in and is chased by guards, but the tour carries on regardless. And three scientists patently behaving weirdly are ignored until it becomes relevant to the plot.
Awkward site-specific theatre is the least immersive kind. Clearly, a lot of effort has gone into this, and I wanted to believe. Sadly, I just couldn’t.
By Tom Wicker