Theatre | The Ritual

Tin Shed Theatre Company

Riverfront Theatre, Newport

Tin Shed theatre promised an immersive horror experience like no other for Halloween, and it’s safe to say that they completely delivered. Ushered onto a bus with a dozen or so other unsuspecting audience members, we were told that the venue had no power and Tin Shed would regrettably have to refund our tickets. At first it seemed an obvious ploy, but as time went on and the bus driver began to enquire about where he would park the mini bus, the mood of the audience shifted into an uncomfortable uncertainty.

Receiving a call, the bus driver picked up a friend who then directed us to an abandoned warehouse on an industrial estate. After being driven into a large, forlornly dark warehouse, we were ordered off the bus by screaming henchman wearing horrifying masks. Marching us all to a room where a video was projected onto a wall full of cult like symbols and dried blood, we were inspected and some of us were ‘marked’. Those of us who were marked were taken to another room in the bitterly cold warehouse whilst echoes of ominous screams bounced off the walls. Taken from room to room, it became obvious that the warehouse was being used as a sort of scouting ground for a sacrificial victim. Wailing bodies swarmed around the audience’s feet, whilst the henchmen continued to provoke and intimidate. An old toilet housed a troubled and unseen prisoner who writhed about in chains seemingly choking and spluttering.

After a visit to several rooms, we were invited to witness the sacrifice of the ‘pure’ one. Hooded figures created a sacrificial circle into which walked the apparent leader of the cult. He asked for his victim, the unmarked one. A girl timidly raised her hand after an extended pause and was dragged away kicking and screaming. It was only at this point that her role as a plant became obvious, and the audience were left feeling completely bewildered and slightly amazed that this girl had been with us from the beginning and went unsuspected throughout the performance. What followed was a hysterical ritualistic calling of the Gods which climaxed in the revelation of a demonic figure in the midst of the audience. Thankfully, the bus driver opened the warehouse at this point and the audience, completely immersed in the immediate panic of the moment, began running towards the safe haven of the mini bus.

Tin Shed managed to create a completely horrifying and immersive theatre experience with essentially, a warehouse, some great costumes and fantastic performances. That in itself goes to show the quality of the production; it was achieved with very basic resources. The one thing that would have enriched the experience was a context to the performance. What was a demonic cult doing in 21st century Newport? Admittedly this may have been left vague in order to completely bewilder the audience, but some context could potentially have heightened a sense of terror in the audience. As a result, the revelation of the cult leader was less of an epiphany, more of a continuation of this bizarre event. Having said this, the performance was certainly a massive success and was one of the best pieces of immersive theatre to have come out of Wales in a long time.