TAKE a closed, out-of-season hotel, a classic horror story, one of the world’s most exciting directors and a group of adventurous and multi-talented students and you are guaranteed an immersive theatre experience.
Yes, immersive experiences are a bit of cliche in contemporary theatre but this was the real deal. We were swept into the increasingly crazed world of Jack Torrance, drawn into the terrors of his frightened wife Wendy and ached for his tragically gifted son Danny.
At one point in the confusing movement from one half-lit hotel room to the next, I came close to the older Danny, moaning quietly to himself, imploring help and yet warning any who would listen to escape. He held out one thin white hand and I took it and for what seemed many minutes we held each other’s hands, mine warm and I guess comforting, his cold and shaking like a little bird.
Of course, for devotees of Stephen King’s famous novel and the even more famous film (remember Jack Nicholson crashing through the doors screaming “Here’s Jack!”?) this was an extraordinary and unique opportunity to experience something of the madness and terror that King wanted to create.
It all begins so well. The guests arrive at the hotel and are greeted by elegantly dressed women, directed to the bar and sit in comfortable chairs, looking out over the hotel’s dark garden, tumbling down into one of Bournemouth’s East Cliff chines. Gradually the guests in their little groups are joined by strangers, men and women who introduce themselves as the hotel staff, including a charismatic man called Halloran.
Then we are asked to drink up as the hotel is about to close and we gather in the lobby, where the hotel manager and his staff, including Halloran (the chef) are meeting Jack Torrance, who is coming in as the winter caretaker with his wife Wendy. But where is their young son, Danny?
And so it begins … the ghostly twins, the strange atmosphere around Room 237, the terrifying former caretaker Delbert Grady, the mysterious barman Lloyd and a host of voices and presences from the hotel’s blood-stained past.
David Glass, a great mime, director and creator of theatrical experiences, directed and devised Shining at the Chine Hotel with students from the acting, costume and performance design and make-up BA courses at Arts University Bournemouth.
One of many inspired touches is to have multiple performers as both Jack and Wendy and a doubling of the barman Lloyd. There are three performers each for the two principal roles, plus an ensemble of four each, so that as Jack descends into the madness which will end with him crashing through the rooms with an axe there are more of him and more of Wendy – reflecting both his fracturing hold on reality and Wendy’s terror at being trapped in this vast dark building.
The nature of a performance like this is that each one will be different as the cast interact with the audience and the movement between rooms, along dark corridors and up and down narrow staircases changes the dynamic.
By the end of what feels like many hours and many miles of running along corridors, getting your breath in ballrooms where sophisticated singers offer hints of the hotel’s elegant past and up and down stairs, you literally don’t know where you are.
And then it is all over, with a dance in which all participants can wave and shake and bop their demons away. Stunning. Quite scary. But unmissable.
This is an ensemble piece, performed by a large cast. The principal players are: Jack – George Douglas, Ollie Parsons, Patrick Riley; Wendy – Molly Butler, Sophie Huggins, Rianne Thompson; Halloran – Joe Yussuff; older Danny – Harry James; Lloyd – Nebras Jamali, Elijah Khan; Grady – Joseph Jamfrey.