Post - An immersive cinema event

Sat 9th – Sun 10th May 2015


Ed Grimble

at 09:56 on 10th May 2015



'POST' is labelled as ‘an immersive cinema event’, and so I was immediately intrigued by what awaited me at 123 Space Art Gallery in the heart of vibrant Stokes Croft. As a basic premise, University of Bristol MPhil student Yuyu Zhang aims to explore the role that place plays in the cinema experience, but also ways in which that experience can be augmented and expanded. The piece began with two short films, ‘Ours’ (Ariane Parry), and ‘The Soft Side of Heavy’ (Ben Williams-Butt).

‘Ours’ introduces us to hopeless romantic Paul, who on his third date with Rose buys the shop space in which the two now sit, surrounded by candles. Joshua Phillips’ Paul is charmingly awkward, his face often left amusingly agog by Rose’s harsh (but entirely justified) responses, as he bumbles his way through his grand romantic gesture. Behind Phillips’ endearing Romeo, however, lurks something more series: a sad picture of the potentials of habitual behaviour, as the film finishes with Paul about to deliver the same unexpected ‘good news’ to another new girlfriend. Indeed, there is just the faintest glimmer of the predatory in this final scene, as its choreography and script is uncannily similar to the preceding scene.

‘Soft Side of Heaven’ saw the same space, left largely unchanged but for the removal of the lovers’ indoor picnic and candles from ‘Ours’, repurposed as a closed down cafe. Tom Sherman anchors the scene wonderfully, as he toys forlornly with his wedding ring as a recently widowed father of one. His strong presence is needed in a scene of just two characters: himself and his son, played by Oscar Sherman. Indeed, Sherman dispels any stereotypes about the dangers of child actors. Embracing the role with a tremendous maturity, he shows a real tacit understanding of his father’s pain, whilst retaining a remarkable (albeit shaky) composure in the face of bereavement.

Both films together developed a powerful sense of place, despite their combined length not exceeding 15 minutes. Whilst ‘Ours’ looked forwards to the future Paul thought he had with Rose, ‘Soft Side of Heavy’ was engaged with the past, and with mourning and memory. In this way, after only a short amount of time the small set had played host to a wide temporal range, and had been imbued with its own history, and potential for a future.

The real triumph of Zhang’s piece was had in giving her audiences a chance to explore the film sets, decorated for both films simultaneously, after the screening. In a rewarding piece of what felt like cast-less, plot-less promenade theatre, it was the attention to detail that carried the piece forwards. Promenade theatre very much hangs on the details, after all if a stage or set is dull and uninteresting, audiences very quickly become zombified as they trudge around- this is not the case with 'POST', which feels like a dignified celebration of detail. Upon entering each member of the audience had collected an envelope with a ‘secret’ (either a series of clues, riddle, or enigmatic observation) written by a previous visitor inside. This innovative addition meant that new stories, however small, were being enacted out in the set, and it also served as a means of connecting all of the separate audience groups by means of one larger story, in which each person who wrote a new clue became writer and actor. This feeling of successive framed narratives was one of the most technically thought provoking of the performance.

'POST', then, is a wonderful success, and should herald in a bright future for the recently opened 123Space Gallery which will hopefully go from strength to strength to establish itself in vibrant Stokes Croft. The piece is an excellence exploration of the power of the short film and of cinematic economy, as well as how we all interact with place, and how places become imbued with their own complex stories.


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