Last week I witnessed one of the best theatre experiences I have ever seen. Honestly. ‘Shotgun Wedding’, part of Next Wave Festival 2012, was a 4 show sell out mind blow; part entertainment, part experiment.
I took my good friend Katie along, forgetting to mention it was a theatre piece rather than a friends wedding, until mere minutes before we arrived. The look on her face when she realised she was going to be part of experiential theatre was one of terror and anxiety.
We were some of the first to arrive at the St Peters Eastern Hill Hall in East Melbourne. There, we were greeted by actors dishing out corsage and boutonniere to the guests whilst being asked how much, if at all, we would like to participate in the wedding. Participate I hear you ask? Yes, participate. The crowd gathered and all of a sudden, a Bride (Rosie) and Groom (Shane) were hand-picked by the Directors of the ‘show’ and whisked away. They didn’t even have a chance to comprehend what was about to happen, let alone decide if they wanted to go through with it. All of a sudden, other individuals were picked to fulfil other roles such as reading speeches as a best friend to the Bride and Groom as well as other duties like ushers. The rest of the audience was split into friends of either the Bride or the Groom. I was one of 4 picked to hold the chuppah which the Bride and Groom would stand under during the ceremony. Not that the show swayed in any strong religious direction, I felt it was a nice touch. The audience took their positions, Shane stood beside the best man and the wedding music started. Down the aisle walked Rosie, in her 5 minute old wedding dress.
The priest read the vows from his iPad and a few audience members followed with directed readings – the ceremony felt very real indeed. Then bang, they were married. Well, not really. They walked down the aisle whilst all the guests threw rose petals in the air. Then they were gone from the hall.
There was a pause as the Directors took the stage to tell us a surprise, “no wedding is complete without a party”. The shutters at the end of the hall rolled up and there was a wedding party pack for the 50 guests neatly stacked away ready to be opened. It was everyone onboard to help make the party happen. 15 minutes and you would not believe what was created, it was so rewarding. Tables, chairs, every decoration under the sun, champagne, cutlery, plates, food, everything! Everyone helped, even to make the food, put together the cake, pour the wine, fill the Bomboniere bags and write the good luck messages. The wedding video was in full swing, the photo booth flashed away and those about to make the speeches were busy crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s. The environment was electrifying.
People took their seats and the food was served. Conversations flowed and so did the wine but time was running out. The speeches commenced and hilarity ensued. I couldn’t stop laughing when the best man gave his ‘heart warming story’ about the Groom, who he had known for the grand total of 2.5 beers.
No wedding would be complete without dancing, so the tables were pushed to the walls and the smoke machine was cranked up. The first dance soon turned to line dancing and people found themselves screaming the words to Greece lightning soon after. How could the mind be so incredibly tricked into believing this?! It was 4 in the afternoon and two hours ago we had only just arrived and putting on name badges?!
That was it. The Bride and Groom were ushered to the wedding carriage and disappeared into the night, as quickly as the event began. We all looked at each other, trying to comprehend what had just happened, but we couldn’t. Everyone was smiling and said their goodbyes to each other. This experiment, this moment in time was one to be remembered for a long time. We all shared something that day, fake or real or whatever it was. As a theatre piece, it’s had a truly profound effect on me. Long live experiential theatre!