Three years ago a group of creatives got together at Matthews Yard and started working on an unusual project. At the time, none of us would have thought that we'd still be working on it now.
Land of Nod was an experiment in storytelling. The group of people who worked on the initial version in May 2015 were interested to see if we could make a piece of free-roaming immersive theatre that would work outside on the streets of Croydon. We wanted to see if we could give our audience the freedom to explore old town Croydon, sending them out in search of our story amidst all the background noise. Would they return empty handed, or would the thrill of the hunt produce theatrical gold?
We really didn't know, but we wanted to find out. We put a limited number of tickets on sale for a fiver each and hoped for the best. We had no idea whether it would be a thrilling adventure or a total disaster.
Three years later, we're doing it all again. That initial experimental run was not without problems, but it worked far better than anyone had dared to hope for. Not only did the audience find our story, but they held onto it tenaciously. The backdrop of Croydon came alive in an exciting way – because anything *could* be part of the story, everything *was* part of the story whether we intended it to be or not. Croydon became a character in our site-specific piece, and a very unpredictable one at that.
For us, creating a piece of theatre that takes place on the streets and blends in with the everyday is a thrilling exercise. Of course street theatre as a concept is not new, but our approach to it – telling a complicated branching interlocking narrative that takes places in multiple locations simultaneously outside on the streets – is quite unusual. Normally, street theatre performers work hard to gather a crowd and attract as much attention as possible. Our show is a hidden mystery, one that is unavailable to the uninitiated. Our work has to be inconspicuous – our performers rarely interacting with more than a handful of our audience at a time, and in such a way that the average passer by would not even consider that a performance was in progress.
At the centre of it all is a story that belongs to Croydon – that of a young man who has stabbed someone and is wanted by the police. We have worked closely in the past with Lives Not Knives, and more recently with Ment4 – both local charities devoted to giving Croydon teenagers better prospects - in developing a story that is all too familiar to Croydon residents, and based on a range of real life experiences.
In turn we have created a hyper-real experience. One where the audience gets to explore the local area while looking at it with new eyes. Our story, and our way of telling it, enable people to step outside their unconscious prejudices and empathise with a diverse range of characters. Our story and the real world blend together to the point where one finds it difficult to distinguish between the two. Come and join us this weekend, and see Croydon through a different lens.
Owen Kingston, Director