Venue: Shoreditch Town Hall
Performed and Devised by: Outbox LGB Theatre
Director: Ben Buratta
On the ground level of super-cool Shoreditch is the Town Hall - historic and grand. At the entrance we’re greeted by a lady in a corset and given coloured armbands, to divide us up (presumably I was in the super-cool-clearly-lives-in-Hoxton group – either that, or it’s random). We’re then taken a few steps down beneath the road and into a dingy, dark, subterranean maze of abandoned rooms. You can’t help but feel cruisey as you’re invited to follow a young man down a corridor – but that’s the idea. From the outset Reach Out and Touch Me is inviting, sexy, dangerous and interesting.
The group is split into two journeys – which helps to stop overcrowding as you move between rooms, but is also a nice trick to make you feel like there is more going on around the corner, than just what you’re being shown. Every room features a new couple of characters giving a snippet from their own experiences of being LGB. Sometimes it’s sexy, such as the “chavvy” guy who is trying to pick up in the bathroom, or a heavily stylistic and breathy experience in a “sauna”. Sometimes it’s tender: a teacher tries to reach out to a gay student, and a “dating app” pick-up turns into a heart-to-heart about homelessness. It’s frequently funny – a sketch in the hairdressers had us all chuckling as a gay man and a lesbian insisted that the other person was to be pitied more – a nice twist on the usual victimization seen in queer theatre.
The adventures culminate in a club, where we are all given the opportunity to dance with the actors/characters – which is always fun. They take it turns to introduce themselves, their stories and their feelings. It’s very honest, and not in a brutal way, but in a manner that suggests the director has reigned in raw emotions to make something poetic for the audience. Sometimes promenade/interactive theatre can be a bit daunting (especially in dark, unfamiliar environs), but it’s a truly joyous and safe experience.
Outbox are a community-based theatre company, telling forgotten stories and promoting inter-generational links. Their performance was free, but they collect for LGBT charities – and with work of this quality, it’s well worth supporting.
VERDICT: **** (Four stars) Cruise around the vaults of Shoreditch Town Hall and explore the many facets of lgb life.