Marshmellow Laser Feast, The Lowry, Manchester – 26th May 2017 Reviewed by Julie Noller
I always enjoy attending productions at The Lowry, it’s a modern theatre that’s open and welcoming and the staff are always only too pleased to help. I felt privileged to have been invited to attend a special performance of Iris as part of their Week 53 celebrations. Week 53 as explained by Julia Fawcett Chief Executive of The Lowry is about showcasing art – visual art in the case of Iris. They throw open their doors and invite artists to create something imaginative in the largest theatre the Lyric.
Having spoken to the theatre and checked out Facebook and website pages, I knew the night would be going ahead after the shocking and appaling events of Monday night, I was aware that security had been increased. There is a reassuring police presence outside as well as security guards searching bags – I had emptied my Mum bag so no sticky sweetie wrappers there. There was also an abundance of staff and volunteers all ready to help anyone in need and offer a smile or joke.
The night was a celebration of the theatre, of the building, we were welcomed inside with a special wristband, programmes and badges urging us to stay curious. We were offered drinks and stood enjoying the glorious sunshine outside on the balcony that overlooks the plaza infront of the Lowry, the Salford Quays with Media city and Old Trafford close by, watching the world go by. We were encouaged to eat curious, trying a selection of adventurously styled burgers (pulled pork, halloumi and carribean). Speaking to one of the organisers of the evening, there was no way the Lowry would even dream to cancel this event but they were conscious that at only 7 minutes long they had a whole building unused and thus Tim Peaks pop up diner was welcomed in with artists including Tear and The Charlatans performing in Pier 8.
We were all called to enter the Lyric theatre and seated directly in the middle, we were a small group in terms of The Lowry audiences.The atmosphere was smokey but I assumed this was needed for the lasers. Julia Fawcett addressed us explaining week 53 objectives, praising her staff and volunteers and offering thoughts and condolences to the families and victims of Manchester Arena bombing, emotion was there for us all to see. We were then introduced to Iris creator Ersin Han Ersin from Marshmellow Laser Feast who explained they were aiming to use the arcitecture of the theatre as a stage, the auditorium as a canvas.
I had no idea what I would see, my only real experience of lasers is from attending discos in the 1990’s, would there be loud music? Would it be flashing lights? The answer is No. Iris began once the lights dimmed and the audience became so quiet,I wondered if they were all still there. I felt nervous almost as if waiting for a fairground ride, would the floor disappear and I would be rocketed skyward? No remember you’re in a theatre, nice comfy chair and the floor is still there. Music was soft and soothing reminiscent of the film close encounters of the third kind, the lasers danced across the theatre as if they were probing each person, touching each person. I know I was not the only one to raise my hand to meet the laser to touch it, witnessing my hand turning red. It struck me that Iris is encouraging us to question ourselves as much as she questions us, looking deep inside to see what we find.
My perception was that I found myself inside an adult version of a sensory room, I do have to say children will find it appealing too. The show finishes with the lights dancing around the auditorium, to me like musical notes, to my husband like a murmuration of Starlings. Then as quickly as it had started it was over, It had been relaxing to watch those red lasers.
Well done to The Lowry and I hope those audiences who get to watch Iris before their own shows enjoy their 7 minutes curiosity. I may get to witness this spectacular show again, I certainly hope so. There are other showings of Iris if you are not booked to watch a show, maybe you’re staying in Media City or shopping at The Lowry Outlet.