The Remote London. The starting location was withheld until the day before so as not to spoil the surprise.
We met on a nice sunny day in the park. To my left, the creepiest statue that ever existed. All dirty yellow stone and long drapes. It looks as though it belongs in Highgate Cemetery not this park. However on consideration this park used to be a cemetery its self, before it was turned into a park. The flowers in the planter below look a little sparse. Bright flowers on spindly stalks.
I am relieved to find that most of the other people in the group look normal, but I still hope that we arrive home before darkness draws in. A slim lady with a baby in a carrier across her chest, comforts it by bouncing the baby up and down, up and down. There are about twenty of us, mainly strangers to each other though there are a half dozen who arrive together. The group comprises people well into their sixties, a mother with her baby, young men and young women.
A skinny whippet on long skinny legs races past. The sun goes behind a cloud.
The twenty or so people stand apart from each other not sure what is going on.
The organiser makes us sign a form promising that in case of injuries or death they can not be held responsible and that we have to return the headphones in working condition.
A few minutes wait and we are summoned to a briefing and are handed our headsets through which we will receive disembodied instructions.
After the last few simple human instructions, we are ready to go.
A smooth, calming, woman’s voice directs us to each choose one of the parks many gravestones and to stand beside it. Then we are told to walk out of the park and along the road and then into another smaller park where we are told to gather in a circle. We are given a small talk on team work and are on our way again. Wherever we go we are instructed, in detail, what to do and when to do it. Micro managed by a benign motherly voice.
We stop as a group in a busy entrance to a main line railway station, where we line up and stare at commuters as if they were characters on a stage giving applause, without reason, when instructed. We then stand in a line looking at our reflections in a restaurant window, as instructed, and it is suggested that we try to identify any of the rest of the team’s by their reflection. No one outside our group seems to notice, not even the customers in the restaurant window, and we walk on. All the time we are receiving instructions and friendly encouragement through the headphones. We are directed onto the Underground where we all carry out a group stretch in the carriage. It no longer feels particularly uncomfortable to act strangely in public. Again nobody seems to notice anyway.
We stop again, in a church this time, near what proves to be our destination. We sit down in the pews while the voice explains to us that she is finished and that our instructions will be now be voiced by John. John, without the knowledge of the rest informs six of us that we are the superior team and should leave the church. I assume that all groups received similar messages.
We are directed through the streets towards a large public building well known to me. On the way stopping to stand half of our group on one side of the narrow access road the other half on the opposite side. We then line up with one person and stare into each other’s eyes. Another test. An easy one for me I am opposite a very beautiful young woman.
We carry on towards our destination sometimes walking backwards, slightly down hill, until we reach one of many entrances to our destination. We enter then take the stairs, not the lifts, up to one of the principle levels of this monster building. On the balcony outside we get together for the final time and watch the river through vapour streaming from the chrome pipes located on the peripheral wall. I don’t see anyone swapping phone numbers or even conversing much for that matter.
Overall it is an interesting idea, how is an individual’s actions are affected by being part of a group, the breaking down of inhibitions. Speaking for my self I lost much of my reticence when part of a group and became acquiescent to suggestions which I would not have even considered when alone.
Internationally, these happenings are organised all over the world. The organisers that you meet are not your average theatricals, they are nice but tend to stay in the background.
If you get a chance and are even slightly fit, please give this a go it is not very physically strenuous . You may learn something about your self which you were not expecting. I did.
Reviewed by Graham Archer