Theatre Critic and Journalist

Review: Rider Spoke, Barbican Centre

Review: Rider Spoke, Barbican Centre

Written as a trial for The Stage, 19.10.2007

Bridging the gap between theatre and game, Rider Spoke attempts to provide its audience with a personal expedition around London, interacting with both the city itself and past journeys of others.

Cycling around the Barbican with a computer attached to the handlebars of a bicycle, audience members must ‘hide’ recorded answers to questions and find the recordings of others using wi-fi technology. Whilst it works in theory, in practice it can become an exasperating experience.

As the familiar becomes unfamiliar and the city transforms into a series of unexplored nooks and crannies, it is interesting and exciting. The search for the correct location – be it “a stinking arsehole of a place” or somewhere your father might like – triggers the imagination. A soft anonymous voice in one’s ear both reassures and isolates whilst travelling, pricking the senses with a touch of danger.

However, the piece is hindered by the technology that enables it. The computer, with its rustic graphics of swallows and shacks, is frustratingly slow. In looking for others’ answers the technology does too much, finding answers within a large radius of their intended location, displacing recording and place. As a result, the process becomes somewhat arbitrary.

Nonetheless, it is an affecting hour. The recordings of others are at times amusing, at others moving, always voyeuristic yet personal. Unique and enjoyable as a game, intriguing if flawed as theatre.

Photograph: Blast Theory

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