Shopping, the Immersive Experience

Shopping today. It ain’t what it used to be. “No Browsing,” says a sign outside the Halfords next to the Pets at Home where I’m going. The queue is long at Halfords and strictly enforced.

I’ve timed it right for the pet store, but there’s “an airlock” as they call it in immersive theatre these days. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s come all the way from “Alien War”, the immersive experience in the 1990’s in The Trocadero. I went three times as a teenager. Young actors pretending to be space marines and one in an HR Giger Alien suit. In an immersive show it’s helpful to have someone who changes the world for you from “where did I put my ticket” to ” THIS IS AN ALIEN SPACESHIP”. That job in Alien War fell to a pretend Space Marine in a literal pretend airlock. “This is a hostile environment. Do not stray off the path!” (because unmarked areas aren’t dressed). “Do not get ahead of me!” (Or you’ll see the alien having a fag!” “Most importantly do not #insert playfulness here” so they forget the rest of the hard rules – something like “Do not pull faces at me behind my back, I have a fragile ego and a large gun.” Because remember guys – this is fun rules time!” I loved Alien War. Until the actors got bored and started sending it up. The third time I did it the alien was jazz dancing in the strobe. “Fuck that,” I thought aged like 17. “How do I apply?” It closed shortly after.

At Pets at Home the actor giving me the airlock wasn’t fun at all. She was really pleasant. But we were both seriously socially awkward. I think we are all going to find out we’ve forgotten how to do the in public stuff when the doors open.

Nobody was in the shop but staff. “STAY SIX FOOT APART AT ALL TIMES.”

While she’s talking, and taking deep breaths between sentences, the wind blows directly at my back, whistling round past me first and then past her face and into the automatic doors she’s protecting from the airborne pathogens. I’m aware of wind direction constantly these days.

I don’t think she’s an actor. Her delivery is earnest but poor, but from much of the immersive stuff I’ve witnessed that’s no indicator. But this isn’t bad emphasis and over-play. It’s just flat.

It’s fairly standard for the airlock character not to be an actor though to avoid using one of the core cast so they can stand in a circle together and do tongue twisters and talk about how hungover they are. It’s usually the front of house or spare bar staff or in emergencies the producer’s flatmate doing it with whatever shit they’ve cobbled together from the dressing up box as a costume.

The show itself was over before it began. “What are you here for,” she asks, trying to make it a personal experience for me.

“Um… Dead mice?” That’s all I’ve got. Talking to humans. I remember this from long ago.

She ushers me through the airlock… “Stand there. It’s 6 for 5. How many do you want?” “Oh er 12.” Then she’s got the curveball, to take control in her immersive world. “What size?” Fuck.

Of course dead mice come in sizes. This is what life comes down to. As per blogs passim, they’re 21% protein, 9% Crude oil. 67% moisture. The rest is God. But when we die will someone weigh us and put us in a packet with SIZE MARKINGS?

I guessed correctly on size. Extra Large. Greater than 31g of creature. Twelve of them are in my hands in no time. No less than 93 grams of creature.

Contactless payment, get the fuck out of this shop, job done. Not the greatest show in town but if you come home from the theatre with 12 dead mice in your bag then something has definitely occurred…

I just finished performing in the “eat me” puppet show and now I’ve left him in darkness to enjoy his taste sensations and get the most of out of the wee sleekit dancing defrosted beasty.

I slept a full night last night and woke up at normal time. I don’t want to call it too early, but at least that insomnia shit is over.

Early bed. Back to the tidying tomorrow. Before long all this tut is going on eBay…


Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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