"Teasing but enjoyable immersive production."
by David Cunningham for remotegoat on 10/10/12

Good news - Syntech Solutions, global leader in communications research and development, are head hunting. But candidates have to pass an unusual series of assessments.

Happystorm Theatre has a reputation for 'Immersive Productions' that are set in unconventional spaces, follow their own logic and require extensive audience participation. Even so the instruction to dress for a building site is daunting and, it turns out, unnecessary.

Director Mel Cook and Executive Producers Susi Wrenshaw and Matthew Ganley transform a building in Salford's Mediacity complex into a bizarre series of experiments. The audience is cast as the candidates, dressed in laboratory coats and goggles and left to wander around the chilly building and be tested. Difficulties of communicating in a multi-ethnic society (or perhaps understanding management gobbledegook) arise as none of the staff speak English.

Around the audience the five-strong cast perform an on-going soap opera dashing around, rowing, bursting into tears and occasionally breaking into terrific synchronised dance numbers. The main success is, however, the designs from Jason Crouch, Lisa de Cunha, Jess Killen , Vanessa Lilley , Sean McGrath and Enya Koster. There is a sense that the staff, like Conrad's Kurtz, have gone native and taken up residence in the building. Cardboard boxes piled in a storeroom form a maze leading to an over-perfumed tart's bedroom. Another bedroom has been set up adjoining a room wallpapered, and partially carpeted, in pages torn from a Jackie Collins novel.

There are darker aspects to the design. All of the rooms are dirty. A laboratory has a stack of blooded cotton wool balls and pages scattered around. The film ' Nosferatu' is shown on a loop. Other rooms are just delightfully weird. Masses of old videotape hang from the ceiling; in another subdued lighting eventually reveals walls full of calculations to which the staff add as you watch.

'Borderline Vultures' is tremendous fun but has flaws. Cook sets a disquieting mood of suspense that doesn't lead to a satisfactory climax. The later parts of the play sag. After you've explored all the rooms and been tested your attention strays. The show eventually reaches a conclusion that restores the individuality of the audience but it takes longer than necessary to do so.

Borderline Vultures runs from 6th to 28th October 2012. Bookings via The Lowry Meeting point at the Holiday Inn Hub Bar, Mediacity

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