The Far End

20 Nov 2009

Crouch End, London

"Hide!" The guide, the voice who's been in my ear all the way from the clock tower, sounds like she means it. Rock and roll! Suddenly I know what we're playing and how this works. I make a snap decision and swing around the corner, ducking into the cloakroom just as a crew member opens it.

Just as quickly, another crew member takes my arm and guides me back to where I was. I try to salvage some of the drama by uselessly flattening myself against the wall. Okay. This isn't Night Watch, and I don't know how it works. It's funny what you bring with you.

I never really find out. I'm not a ghost, but I'm not sure what's expected of me. This is new, and my normal approach is useless here.

The voice in my ear tries to guide me through, but she lives in an mp3 player, so she's slightly out of sync. In fact, she's lagged, which leaves me at a disadvantage as she tells me how to handle situations. Perhaps it's deliberate. When people talk to me, I have to choose who to listen to, and sometimes I choose wrong. The whole time, I'm so focused on trying to fit in, to make the show work that I'm not absorbing as much of my surroundings as I should be.

It's funny what you bring with you. These guys don't need my help.

When, eventually, my guide dumps me in a basement, going dead after leading me through a door that's locked behind me, I feel the rules shift underneath me. It's not quite the Game, it's not quite Spider And Web, but it is a Change. That's the end, though, and once I work out my route out, there's no debrief. As always, I'm left wondering if I missed something. Or everything.

Three years ago this would have blown my mind into a thousand sizzling sparks. It's an outstanding production. It's left me with several surreal moments and a vague sense of unreality.

Damn it: I can't stay on that edge. I can't even get back there unless I find something an order of magnitude better than before, and when you live in London, there isn't anywhere else to go.

I could build it. Though they made it look easy, one glance at the spreadsheets, one tense curse from an overloaded and out-of-position actor reminded me how brutally hard this is. But pulling Dead Reckoning together against unbelievable odds made me sure that I can do this. But the creators never play, never really experience it. And the opportunity costs are massive.

When I came home from Faust, I never thought that I'd spend the rest of my time here trying to get back.