Dance floor epiphany

The Last Dance: the play that gets you dancing to disco

Words: JJ Dunning
Photos: Rajvi Vaya

London’s latest immersive theatre experience aims to get you dancing with strangers. So what – or who – is waiting for you on the dance floor?

The Last Dance is an interactive experience created by immersive theatre company Reuben Feels.

The event takes place at London’s Hoxton Hall throughout November.

Go along and you’ll be asked to dress in uniform fashion (white t-shirt and jeans), and encouraged to mix with random strangers to dance the night away. The action takes place at the fictional “Institute” where you might make a lasting friendship or even – who knows! – find romance.

  • In the age of Tinder, Reuben Feels describe The Last Dance as, “the antidote to swiping right for love.”
  • Reuben Feels have toured with Mumford & Sons, creating theatrical experiences for their 2013 tour of Canada and the USA
  • The Last Dance takes place at Hoxton Hall in London from 1st-26th November 2016

THE RED BULLETIN: What is the concept behind The Last Dance? 

It’s an examination of how humans connect, set in a dystopian matchmaking Institute. Through the piece they find themselves on the dance floor.

What’s the set-up?

The audience are recruited as new members to The Institute. Everything in this world is restricted, surreal… then we break out. The music follows this journey, and disco is the saviour.

Everything is led by the story as we travel through the evening, and all is inspired by the beautiful Victorian music hall [Hoxton Hall in London] and its surrounding spaces. The whole piece takes you out of your world into a different reality that encourages strangers to become united revellers.

Why is there a strict dress code of white t-shirt and blue jeans?

The Institute uniform makes everyone the same, actors and audience – it gives them a different and unifying identity.

What are your top five tips for things people should do to enjoy The Last Dance?

Say “yes”, be brave, come with an open mind, don’t stick with your friends (you’ll find new playmates), love the rules (then love breaking them).

It’s the antidote to swiping right for love

Is The Last Dance a bit of a reaction to the modern ways people stay in touch? 

Tech and social media connects us – it also shapes how we connect with one another. Sometimes the technology gets in the way of the other person using it; it can put up barriers. Immersive theatre is about the energy of a bunch of people in a room – it’s the antidote to swiping right for love. 

What would you say to someone attending one of your events for the first time? 

We’re very careful to look after our audience, never letting them feel uncomfortable. They can get involved as much or as little as they want, from being super inquisitive and playful, to observing the action from afar. Sometimes people just need to warm up, we get them feeling playful.

Since they were founded in 2011, Reuben Feels have toured with Mumford & Sons and created a zombie apocalypse for Xbox Live. (Not a real one, of course.)

© Natalie Marsland

How do the actors prepare for something like this – do audience members try to throw them off? 

We do a lot of improvisation and character work, this builds a world for the audience to step into. We are fortunate to work with the best immersive theatre performers in the business, they’re incredible improvisers, they know how to hold a room. Audiences like to play games, you just need to make sure they are the games you offer them. We have all kinds of methods of dealing with bad behaviour at The Institute…

We have methods of dealing with bad behaviour

What’s been the most challenging piece of immersive theatre you’ve produced? 

When we toured with Mumford and Sons in Canada & USA, making theatre for their festivals, we had 24 hours to cast local actors in small towns that we’d never been to before. You could never predict what was going to happen. It was six weeks flying by the seat of our pants and full of surprises; we met some of the best people and performers working on that piece, it was quite an adventure.

Are there ever times when immersive theatre just doesn’t work?

Immersive theatre is all about the audience so that’s the biggest variable when making our pieces – you can predict and shape their experience to a point, but it can change the whole tone of the piece once the audience are actually there, regardless of how considered all outcomes are. It doesn’t work for us when audiences are in “party mode”. We get them before that point so we can engage them, facilitate play, then let them fly.

What’s the best bit of feedback you’ve ever had from a punter? 

Can we do that again?!

The Last Dance runs until November 26 at London’s Hoxton Hall. Buy tickets here.

Read more
11/2016 Red Bulletin

Next story