Entering Cassidy’s bar on Westmoreland Street clutching a rabbit-in-headlights Polaroid of myself, I am ushered into the basement of the building and through a door into what seems to be a reproduction of Moulin Rouge with a heavy dose of Absinthe: everything speaks of decadence and excess, from the low red lighting to the eccentrically costumed cast mingling with the bewildered audience whose eyes cannot find a place to settle. Laughing to herself and perched above us, one cast member showers the audience with droplets of wine, while another crouches beneath her under a transparent umbrella reading poetry; across the room two others perform feats of gluttony and drop table scraps into the lap of a girl crouched beneath them. A paper airplane hits my companion who unfolds it to find very accurate caricature of himself within. The room is constantly in motion.
We are brought to order to be introduced to the story of the Steppenwolf, but the story is soon a distant memory, as, one by one, the audience is led onward and upward. I am handed a note instructing me to follow a cast member, and alone, I enter the shadowy underworld of ‘The Magic Theatre’. This is where All Hell Lay Beneath comes into its own: from here on in, I direct myself. This is an immersive theatre experience unlike any other – I played hangman with a disembodied voice; was wined and dined; mapped out my past and my future; sampled lime caviar; entered my own little Hall of Gratuitous Praise; wrote and danced and dressed up and drew; created a snowstorm; was given a present; sent a little love out into the streets of Dublin on the back of a flame; was guided by a white knight through a mass of bubbles; screamed myself hoarse, and laughed for the sheer delight of it. The cast were exceptional and the experience flowed wonderfully. A venue change at the last hour, especially given the extensive range of props and custom-built sets, could have been the kiss of death for the show – hats off to Sugarglass Theatre for pulling this off with such aplomb. In the warren-like setting above and below Cassidy’s, magic becomes reality: this was a literal ‘through the rabbit hole’ experience. Following its success there is speculation that All Hell Lay Beneath may run again later this year – do not miss out.
Cat O Broin