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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Let Me Tell You A Secret...

Set for Punchdrunk Theatre's Sleep No More. Image via Ida C. Benedetto's blog

Secrets. Secrets keep us safe, set us free, bind us, intrigue and infuriate us in equal measure. I love the idea of secrets but I'm equally enamoured with the idea of discovery. I get excited when new archaelogical finds are announced and I love it when caches of personal papers/ artworks/ manuscripts are suddenly unearthed. Unravelling mysteries and sharing secrets seems to be part of our DNA - the lure of secret lands may have been the spur for Marco Polo's Asian oddessy but the need to impart those secrets is surely what brought him home.

In an increasingly digital world, uncovering secrets (think Wikileaks) and finding the answer to life's mysteries often feels as though it could be just a Google search away, but let's face it, it can be a bit of a hollow experience when you're home alone nursing your laptop. It's not surprising then that people are flocking to more communal experiences like those offered by Secret Cinema and Lost Lectures in London, events shrouded in secrecy the better to entice/engage their audiences. Tickets are hard to come by but those who do manage to procure one do so in the knowledge that the location and substance of the event will only be revealed to them slowly through a series of clues - some online (using both social media and interactive games), some involving actors.

The use of actors and unusual locations to create an immersive experience is taken to even greater heights by Britain's Punchdrunk theatre company whose Sleep No More, a radical retelling of Shakespeare's Macbeth/ Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca has been wowing sell-out audiences in New York. What is remarkable about Punchdrunk's approach is that it provides the opportunity for each audience member /participant to have a completely different experience of the same show depending on the choices they make as they explore their surroundings. Clues are everywhere but it's up to you to recognise and interpret them.

I'm not aware of any projects like this in Melbourne (perhaps it's a secret!) but I'm not sure how I'd go anyway. Maybe it's not for everyone. I'm a bit of an armchair explorer myself and although I love the idea of these projects I'm one of those people who freak out a bit when an actor breaks the Fourth Wall and encourages audience participation so my anxiety level would be pretty high! How about you? Have you been to anything like this? Would you like to?

P.S: If you're in Melbourne and keen for a spot of detection this weekend you might like to take part in the Melbourne City ROMP this Sunday 25 March. The event is described as part treasure hunt, part amazing race and aims to raise funds for the Burnet Institute of Medical Research whose focus is on finding cures for the 'Big Three' - HIV, TB and malaria.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Looking Back on The Year of Reading Backwards...

I know it's a cliche but can you believe it's March already! Before the year runs away with me completely I thought I might do a bit of a year-in-review to round up last year's Year of Reading Backwards . Some of you may remember that my aim was to:

- read more of the books already on the shelves
- catch up on some modern classics
- have a go at re-reading some favourites

So how did I fare? Well, I'd say it's a bit of a mixed score-card. I read 26 books in total (not including about a million kids books!) of which 14 fitted into the 'Year of Reading Backwards' category. Of those I'm particularly glad I finally caught up with The Woman In White by Wilkie Collins, 1984 by George Orwell and I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. After reading such gems of course I wondered why it had taken me so long to get around to them!

As for the re-reading well I'm afraid to say the year just served to confirm my suspicions (or so I thought...). For much of the year I just couldn't bring myself to pick up a book I'd already read. It just seemed like such a waste of time. For the sake of the experiment I did re-read, A Room With A View by E.M. Forster and The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera but I must say that as much as I enjoyed them I didn't enjoy them as much as I had on first reading (perhaps that's because I was in Paris just having visited Florence when I read the former and read the latter when it was a much anticipated and acclaimed new release). Perhaps my pleasure in reading, like many people's, is tied up with time and place? Having said that, my year in reading ended somewhat surprisingly when I found myself so engrossed in Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus that having finished it I immediately flicked back to the first page and read it through again!

I'm still intrigued as to why people choose to re-read (or not). In her article, The Pleasures and Perils of Rereading , Lisa Levy discusses quite of few of those reasons chief among which seems to be the pleasure and security derived from returning to a book as an 'old friend'. For others it is the satisfaction that comes from pulling apart a text to really get behind the authors craft and intent. The perils include the very real possibility that you may return to the 'old friend' only to find that it no longer 'speaks to you' bringing to an abrupt halt a life-long love affair (perhaps this is my secret fear?).

So this year I'm challenging myself in a completely different way and have signed up to the War Through The Generations Reading Challenge. The theme for this year is World War I so I'm giving myself another chance to finally read Pat Barker's Ghost Road trilogy which was on last year's list. I'm also planning to read Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms, Vera Brittain's Testament Of Youth and Max Egremont's biography of Seigfried Sassoon. Perhaps you might like to join in too? You can read as little as one book if you like and there is a great reading list to help get you started.

P.S: I mentioned in a previous post that I am now 'tweeting' as well so if you would like to follow me you can find me @Birdwiththegold.

EDIT: I've just discovered the Australian Women Writers 2012 Reading and Reviewing Challenge and signed up for that too. More details soon...