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Review of Strange factories on 28th October 2013


I've always loved the 80's new romantic era with video's such as David Bowie's Ashes to Ashes and Steve Strange's Fade to Grey. What has this got to do with Strange factories you ask? Well imagine being in a surreal version of said videos with a dark bohemian Bronte twist.


Walking up to the Cinema museum of London in Elephant and Castle, South London, I see a silent group of people standing in line. This was my first visit to this museum and had heard about the amazing interior décor. Full of film memorabilia and history, my eyes relished every inch of what I can only describe as a fascinating journey into celluloid.


Three masked actors with clipboards awaited me in silence, looking rather intense to say the least, they made me feel like I was an extra at a Showaddywaddy silent disco. Ten minutes go by and still confused as to what is happening, I try to communicate only to be faced by evil stares (and not the climbing kind or the kind you get when you enter a Mc Donalds and ask for a Royal with Cheese). Trying to take it in my stride (being the ardent terror attraction reviewer) I slowly began to feel slightly unnerved.


Another five minutes go by and we are greeted by some more strange masked characters, one with a beak and another with a loan ranger style masquerade ball mask and another quite a morbid looking Marcel Marceau clown.


They sniff me, they stare, they growl, they are our welcome to Strange Factories.


We are ushered in to the building, non the wiser, split into two group of six and still in silence. If this sounds surreal, it was only the beginning.


On a ratio of almost one to one of actors and patrons, our group of twelve is given a submersive crash course in Immersive theatre performance & film noir.


Strange factories was certainly strange and the best I can say is; be prepared, you wont be (In my best Yoda voice).


Produced by John and Lucy Harrigan of FoolishPeople Productions and Written and directed by John Harrigan who incidentally plays Victor, the main protagonist, we are brought into a world where nothing seems real, So we begin our vicarious journey.


The society of Imaginari have in their possession a genuine Stromheim, to be screened for our pleasure and edification. Who is Stronheim you ask, well he is England’s legendary Ghost man, a kind of Ur-figure (their words not mine), archetype within the annals of a broken mind. None the wiser? No neither was I! But what I can say is that this was truly an unsettling experience.


Obscure and enthralling like a KFC drive through, I was in awe. It is said Stronheim's shows are alleged to drive an audience mad and I was of feeling that way inclined. Suffocated with the intensity of the production, I was part of a mass hysteria never seen since said house of chicken.


I loved the surrealism, the passion and the power of the performances. The interaction between the actors was credulously played out with a cavalcade of minds eye imagery. I felt like a voyeur who had stumbled on soliloquy after soliloquy from the theatre production of the women in black meets Punch and Judy without the woman, actually in this case it was a nun and a man with a beak.


Confused with my lucid description? That's the point! Stronheim and the Society of Imaginari use a series of Mind f.........laggery to disorientate and f........mess with your mind.


We were guided throughout by a lovely yet sad faced she-clown and a Lurch type character who at times was vocally intense and at times as quiet as a mute with turrets.


I kid you not, when I say, this was a performance full of extremes. The film itself was a little too long for my taste and maybe that was because of my lack of artistic breeding. Philistine are everywhere! Think David Lynch's Eraserhead meets with Medieval commune in a village not so far far away. Victor signs a contract of obligation to finish his play in order to re build the theatre which was burnt down. Sympathy with the Devil, I hope you sign thy name.


I love immersive theatre and movement induced art house and for me this was unique. The actors played their parts well and I was taken by their passionate performances throughout.


If you want something different, I say this is it.


I went in with no preconceived idea of what I was getting myself into and like the first time when I saw a David Icke speech on Reptilians, I was non the wiser.


Throughout I kept thinking what is going on and when I did understand, the story made a sharp twist and turn and again I lost track. Genius and inventive albeit slightly high brow for your average terror seeker. If you know your P's and Q's, attended a red brick university, have white wine with your fish (or is that red, I can never remember?) and have a perchance for dark disturbing thrillers then this is for you and I stand corrected.


I have no doubt that this continued confusion was purposely presented, yet at the same time thinking wow this is deep and menacing.


If live surreal performance art is your thing and you like David Lynch films, I say go with it and enjoy the ride as you'll never see anything like this again. I certainly haven't in my years of review writing. More like this please! Where do I sign?


Strange Factories is on at the Cinema museum of London and at various locations around the country from 26th October to 18th November 2013


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