Review: Ellard and Lech – Döden, Matthews Yard, Croydon

Doden – Mattias Lech and Lisen Ellard. Photo credit: Marcus Hagman

As a stranger to immersive theatre, I was intrigued by Döden, from Swedish artists Mattias Lech and Lisen Ellard, as I genuinely had no idea what to expect. I was bit anxious about what it would involve, but taking myself out of my comfort zone proved to be so rewarding. I am still buzzing from the experience, even after several hours this afternoon navigating that other Swedish creation in Croydon, IKEA!

Döden, which translates as ‘death’ in English, was staged in Croydon on May 18th in Matthews Yard theatre, and formed part of the Croydonites Festival of New Theatre 2019. It’s a beautifully designed and meditative show which invites the audience to explore big questions while following instructions in a group through one’s own set of headphones. Focusing on death might sound heavy and ominous to some, but the reality of the experience couldn’t be more different.

Before the performance begins, we gather as a group in a circle, with white boiler suits and headphones provided for everyone. We are given reassuring instructions about only doing what we feel comfortable with, and after putting on our suits and headphones, we enter the white box, stand in a circle and begin the performance. The voice in the headphones sounds kind and all-knowing and the experience is not unlike guided meditation. I feel safe, happy and connected to the group.

We all do the same actions for a while and the synchronicity is reassuring. Then the actions and instructions start to diverge and the way they all work together creates a hauntingly beautiful and individual encounter with life’s big questions. The shifting colours of light, dry ice and soundtrack all enhance the sensory richness of the piece as we weave in and out of each other’s experience, just as we do in life, coming face to face with the wonderfully fragile humanity of ourselves and our fellow participants. Any reflection on death is always ultimately a reflection on life and a reminder not to waste the precious time we each have.

The time I spent experiencing Döden was uplifting, memorable and a much-needed time-out from day-to-day concerns to reflect on how extraordinary it is just to be alive. I left the performance with a big smile, feeling more relaxed and connected to the world. I would urge anyone who gets the opportunity to dive into Döden. You won’t regret it.

Originally published on Croydonites website: https://www.croydonites.com/ellard–lech–doumlden.htm Image credit: Croydonites website

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