A soft voice in your ear asks you to remember the last time you made up a story about a stranger – perhaps it was someone sitting next to you on the tube this morning or your next door neighbour you have never met but heard arguing through your bedroom wall – and asks if it is possible to miss that person when they get off the bus, or you leave for work. Can you feel nostalgic for the now lost opportunity to find out exactly who that person was or would you just feel disappointed when they didn’t live up to your imagination?
Would Like To Meet at the Barbican explores these questions in a performance for one in which you take centre stage as a soothing voice takes you on an individual journey around the concrete maze that is the Barbican Centre.
Wearing headphones and a small MP3 player, you sit next to the five other participants before receiving your instructions. Some turn left and push through double doors, some walk down the steps following the gold handrails as instructed, some stay seated as their individual guide waxes lyrical about missed opportunities and that party you always wished you had gone to, but chose to stay at home instead. Each voice poses the question, who might you have met if you had attended?
Giving too much away about the journey you may be taken on would spoil the surprise and feelings of apprehension or excitement participants inevitably feel venturing into the unknown nooks and crannies of the building with only a stranger to guide them. However without revealing too much, your journey might take you to a deserted party backstage, require you to remember childhood pastimes and make a paper aeroplane, witness strangers experiencing a brief encounter, search for hidden props or cameras, or have an internet conversation with someone who could be on the other side of the world or standing right behind you.
Created by a group of graduating artists called non zero one, Would Like To Meet features music by Robert Logan which successfully – and crucially – places you in an unexpected relaxed state, adding to the therapeutic nature of the production. The one flaw in the experience is that the voice speaking to you is a recording and not live. As logistically difficult – possibly impossible – as it would be to achieve this, the set recording means the lack of comment on unforeseeable happenings – such as a boy almost running me over with his bike – can momentarily break the magic of the experience and the intimacy you feel with the person talking to you.
For the most part however, the experience is utterly immersive and refreshingly different. The music combined with the romantic and philosophical ideas fed to you by the soon familiar tones of your guide creates cinematic landscapes where once you just saw concrete structures littered with strangers.