The Halfway House was a site-specific, immersive theatre piece I directed and produced together with Persona Collective at the Old Central Saint Martins campus on Southampton Row, Holborn.
The Koppel Project kindly invited Persona Collective – to develop and stage a theatre show at their Koppel Project Campus, which was conceived as an experimental, cross-disciplinary education and arts facility in the former Saint Martins. It has been vacant for many years and is eventually due to be redeveloped as a high-end hotel. The live show took place from 21st September to 4th October 2020
The narrative revolved around three storylines, each unfolding in ‘The Halfway House’ - a fictional hotel. The building and its residents are stuck between two worlds, paralysed by nostalgia and slipping into real and fabricated versions of their past, but equally seduced by and drawn into this absurdly ill-fitting new reality of a ‘luxury’ hotel, which is in the process of being constructed but already feels extremely makeshift, seedy and tired.
The feature length film version of the performance is currently in film competitions and soon available online, which will open it up to a much bigger audience and also allow those who did attend, to see the show from the perspective of the other characters.
"The experience was something between watching a fragmented movie, being in a haunted house, and being in touch with your memories all at once, as the story that was being told was not in chronological order. The interactive way that we walked through the building added an extra element of voyeurism and mystique, as if the events were all happening parallel to each other and not for an audience to witness.
A fact I wish I had known before watching, is that this beautiful, eerie building is soon to be torn down to build a hotel, adding another layer of tragedy to the events we were seeing, as the dialogue shifted from an old arts school to a hotel multiple times throughout the story.
I think the hints were there in the beginning, as we entered the first room, which was a modern room filled with swivelling desk chairs. The story flips real life on its head, by playing with the idea of ghosts in a very “sixth sense” manner, without giving any real clues about which storyline is present or past until the very end, which even then can be debated"
- Kelly Samuel
Photos by ©Karolina Burlicowska
"I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed it. Snatches and glimpses still drift through my mind: a porter pulling a man to shore; clandestine talks in bedrooms and on doorsteps; a cardigan pulled on and off; flirtations and aggravations across space; an impressive thunderstorm; infinite refills at breakfast; dances alone, together, bare-chested; a voice in the distance, then singing in your ear, eerie: ‘don’t you want me baby?’; a curtain lifting, a majestic ghost, a curtain falling. My god, it was so good"
- Flo Ray
cinematography by ©Finn Boxer
"Persona Collective immersive theatre shows, are the most prolific and ambitious projects I have come across in the past two years. 'The Candidate' and 'The Halfway House', are undeniably pushing the boundaries of experimentation, constantly questioning what live performance means today. Their scenarios are visually and conceptually curated to the minimum detail, and yet they leave space to the audiences to be part of it. I truly believe Persona Collective artistic research will have a big impact on the theatre community and beyond..."
- Marcela Iriarte Villa Lobos