He’s widely known as founder of the triumphant St Jermone’s Laneway Festival, the mind who brought a world’s first glamping experience as well as one of the city’s coolest bars, and the guy who turned a disused factory into a hipster chapel of love and creativity, but for his latest gift to Australia Jerome Borazio is dipping into the complex world of site-specific experiential theatre.
While Jerome’s no stranger to building ambitious projects into cultural gems, bringing Alone to Australia is surely one of his most daring devices to date. It’s basically a five-year old art project which started up in L.A, designing immersive participatory art experiences, moving away from the more expected themes of horror and fantasy towards something more cerebral (and often puzzling), tackling issues of existentialism, the human psyche and what it’s like to be – you guessed it – alone.
And just how alone are you? Well in addition to each participant going through the experience completely solo (well, aside from the plethora of actors, both clandestine and explicit), you’re not allowed – well, you’re not supposed – to pull out your phone for the duration of the performance, despite you being out walking the streets of Melbourne and ducking in and out of bars, hotels and warehouses. Yep, terrifying.
Described as “an existential evocation”, Alone was co-created in L.A by Devon Paulson and Lawrence Lewis, drawing on a collective background steeped in music, sound design, performance, and both installation and fine art. In blending all these art forms into one single, cohesive setting morphed and shaped to the location, Alone was described as a “stroke of genius” by media when it first debuted in 2013. I can only imagine how it has evolved since then; I don’t want to imagine how much effort it has taken to bring the concept to Australia (I assume this has been in the works for quite some time).
The result is far beyond what I could have expected, having been one of a number of journalists given a special 90-minute preview of the 45-minute “show” earlier this month.
The performance takes place through – and is tailored to – the streets of Melbourne’s CBD, beginning when you meet at a secret location and await instructions on what to do next. Soon enough you’re being taken through a dark warehouse by silent performers who offer you tea in some sort of creepy ritual, guided through laneways via crackling headphones, solving a riddle in a near-empty whisky bar while nervously downing a beer, having a deep philosophical discussion with a masked woman in a cheap CBD hotel, running across cobblestone arm-in-arm with a stranger, consoling a crying clown, and being rolled around on a gurney only to be dumped in a pitch-black rave-for-two (plus plenty of other surprises). It’s not for everyone surely, but those who have a particular love for peculiar and unique experiences will love every minute of it.
Half the fun is walking around not knowing who the hell is a performer and who isn’t, feeling eyes follow you (it could be the paint smeared on your face) with or without the knowledge that you’re being soaked in an art project so surreal it feels like you’ve been cast in a particularly intense episode of Black Mirror. And then there seems to be smaller details that have been put into the elaborate performance, indicating that each slot is tailored to the participant.
Curious? You should be, but do note that the performance may or may not require you to walk, run, kneel, drink alcohol (optional), eat cheap but delicious ginger snaps (optional), lay, be blindfolded, and talk to strangers/actors. Basically, just know that you’ll be kicked out of your comfort zone during the performance, but none of it is ever threatening and it’s all very seamless, safe and planned.
Alone: The / / / / / Sequence will be taking place over five nights in February 2018, with the first night set for Valentine’s Day. For more information and tickets (not details though, it’s all about the mystery) head to the official website HERE. Location information will be emailed to each participant after ticket purchase (all locations are near public transportation, but parking will also be available).