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Last Updated: 28/09/2013 13:25:04
City Sketch Heralds a New Dawn for Storytelling in Hull - At The Other Space, Hull
By Michelle Dee.

City Sketch is a site-specific theatre work that takes place inside The Other Space, a converted office block at No 94 Alfred Gelder Street in Hull city centre. Unusual theatre, immersive theatre, interactive theatre is making all the traditional theatre practitioners sit up and take notice. Just as audiences want to interact with news and entertainment online, so they want to be part of the story in theatre.

City Sketch created and conceived by Andrew Pearson, Richard Vergette and Dave Windass of theatre company Ensemble 52 is the first installment of a larger work, in partnership with Battersea Arts Centre and supported by Arts Council England. The new work uses the unassuming venue to tell three related stories set in an office environment. But this is not your usual nine to five.
Sitting in the boardroom of a high flying corporation, an almighty power struggle is taking place. C.E.O. Sarinda played by Sarah Naughton inverts the traditional gender roles and rides rough shod over the other board members, with her profit-before-people policies.

She has a right hand woman to do her dirty work for her, referred to here as the Company Assassin: a genuinely scary performance by Catherine Traveller. Even as the audience was milling about the space, she strode around in big boots and black gloves, every bit the evil henchwoman, enquiring with an increasingly severe tone, as to whether anyone wanted more wine.
My party obeyed without hesitation, and quickly returned to one of the wine and water stations to refill glasses.

At the end of the first piece, the audience was directed to the second floor either by the stairs or by taking the lift.

Now in the hidden world of the night time security guards, Andy played by Tim Bettridge and Stan played by Stan Heywood both had the audience in fits of laughter, with their perfectly timed comic back and forth. Moralising, debating the nature of observation, passing judgment on those who they guard from their elevated positions.

The interaction takes place set against a backdrop of projected CCTV screens showing live footage of the spaces we have moments before been in, unaware that all this time our every move was observed. I later learned that the pieces could take place simultaneously and be viewed in any order, so that when Stan refers to the poor souls in the boardroom, the cameras would be showing the boardroom scene taking place live on the screen.
The third and final piece of the first part of City Sketch takes place actually inside an office, with the seated audience watching and listening from outside through a large plate glass window that runs the length of one wall. This was a strange experience and took a while to get used to. Viewing the action through the glass window made it almost television like; live people moving around inside a little box.

This piece was perhaps the most moving. The drama begins with the ridiculous and nonsensical nature of office policies set against the familiar territory of hierarchy and subordinates. Then it shifts pace into something far more intense.
The duologue, brilliantly acted by Rachel Dale as Amy and Ben Tinniswood as Matt, provided a more intimate view of goings on behind closed office doors. On show for the voyeuristic audience, the mind games, the heavily loaded word play, the spoken and unspoken passions and the inevitable conflict as the two company leaders vie for position both in their professional and personal life.

As if three dramas unfolding in one night wasn't enough, there was both an exhibition by Anna Bean and live art happening throughout by illustrator Gareth Sleightholme. By the time the theatre had concluded, he had sketched out a street scene complete with buildings and people of the very place we'd been in for the past two hours.

As an introduction to a new place for theatre in the city, City Sketch performed admirably. Moving around the building, the imagination fired with ideas of how different stories could be told to new and ever more demanding audiences. As story telling continues inventing and reinventing itself in Hull, you can be sure that the unassuming office space at No 94 will be at the forefront of the theatre revival.

City Sketch runs from 23rd – 28th September
Tickets see:
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