The Halfway House
The Halfway House was a site-specific, immersive theatre piece that was devised and staged by Persona Collective in 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.
There will be a film released this year, which will open it up to a much bigger audience.
"No part of the building should be without its teaching, these labyrinths belong by right to the ground: a recognise symbol of many things
to people, ike spider's webs enticing false paths, while travelling through the maze, ones becomes increasingly lost in relation to the outside world;
the further down the corridors and patchways, the eye turns inward as the building opens itself up to you.
The House in which the evening has no morning whence maybe there is not return"
- W.R Lethaby, Architecture, Mysticism & Myth
"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...read more
"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...read more
"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
Cast & Creators
Host & Collaborator - The Koppel Project
Venue - The Old Central St. Martins
Special Thanks to -
Marcela Iriarte Villalobos
Rocío Ayllón - Artistic Director & Producer
Elina Akhmetova - Movement Director & Choreographer
Karolina Burlikowska - Photographer & Art Director
Satu Streatfield - Lighting Design Director
Finn Boxer - Sound Designer & Cinematographer
Sami Sabik - Creative Technologist
Technicians & Operators
Art installations & Collaborations
Jack Wates - Storm Room
Charly Blackburn - The Lab
Will Langstone - Cello
Femi Oriogun- Williams
Location Sound Recordist
Satu Streatfield, Emma LD, Karolina Burlicowska,
Clare McAndrew, Rocío Ayllón
Abigail Adams, Juan Sanchez Plaza,
Rocio Chacon, Clary Montero,
Femi Oriogun – Williams, Anna Chiarin
Show - Preview Mentors
Jo Danzig, Vanya Gostev,
Enliten Architectural Lighting
Mike Stoane Lighting
Lighting, Effects &
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*Press and review area
Behind the Scenes
Persona Collective seeks to involve local communities, including both amateur and professional performers, in co-creating its shows, while also using buildings and spaces that are either overlooked or at risk of slipping from living memory
Part of working site-specifically is about dialoguing with, and potentially around, the uniqueness of what the space and its architecture have to offer. While working in the The Halfway House we were constantly responding and revealing alternative layers to the reality of the landscape, but making sure the particular environment of the building remains as part of the final show. The show’s narrative and scenography emerged from the place.
We invited two artists, who separately created their own art installation in relation to the narrative of the show.
Shows and performances are developed using ‘devised theatre’ techniques. Together with the choreographer we run months of dance, improvisation, role-play workshops and theatre games with performers in situ to gradually develop their characters and the narratives.
Research into the history of the site, its urban context, and past uses and users, heavily influences the role-plays and the narratives. A team of scenographers worked together to transform some of the spaces into hotel rooms, reception and restaurant, while some of the other rooms and corridors would remain original. We wanted to show to the audience what was really happening inside the building at that time. The space was already a building site and the iconic art school was already in the process of being transformed into a high-end hotel.