Croydonites Festival 2018 review: Land of Nod by Parabolic Theatre


By - Friday 18th May, 2018

Parabolic Theatre’s latest piece of dramatic immersion is dark, complex and leaves you wanting more


Image by Parabolic Theatre, used with permission.

This is not the Land of Nod that you slip into after an over-indulgent Sunday roast on the sofa in front of Antiques Roadshow, or the sort that sees you through the night in your comfy bed after a long, hard day at work. Far from it. This is a dark and immersive Land of Nod that takes place on the night-time streets of Croydon.

Land of Nod is an immersive theatre piece produced by Parabolic Theatre for the Croydonites Festival, which continues until 20th May. Immersive theatre, for those who are unfamiliar with the term, is an interactive form of theatre that requires audience members to be proactive in creating their own theatrical experience. As an audience member, you are an active participant in the story and encouraged to interact with actors by talking to them and asking them questions, as well as exploring the space – in this instance, the streets where the action is taking place. It does not pay to be passive – you have to buy into the story from the outset, and immerse yourself fully in the experience.

Audience members gathered at Matthews Yard for a pre-event briefing held by Owen Kingston, the director of Parabolic Theatre. We were all informed about how to get the most out of the experience and how to keep ourselves safe throughout. We then transformed from audience members to members of the press, and led into a room within Matthews Yard where we were given press passes and press packs. It was evident at that point that this was a murder investigation.

Audience members scattered, hoping to pick up clues

Inside our packs were profiles of four different people and a map with points such as the crime scene and the location where the murder weapon was found. We were then given an overview of the case by a plain-clothes policeman who gave us some key information. Following this, we were given free rein to start our own investigation.

Photo author’s own.

Audience members scattered in all directions, hoping to pick up different strands of the plot. As Owen said at the beginning, we may only pick up 20% of the story. This is the nature of an immersive production, in which you are always left wanting more.

On my journey, I witnessed the crime scene and met a number of characters. I felt as though I had a pretty clear overview of the story, and had come to my own conclusion of what had happened and who the murderer was. However, on the walk back to Matthew’s Yard, I spoke to another audience member. It quickly became clear that there was a whole different dimension to the story, a darker under-layer that I hadn’t experienced at all.

This connected to a previous Parabolic production called Morningstar, produced for the Croydonites Festival in 2017. Morningstar was based on the biblical story of temptation in Eden experienced by Adam and Eve. This, it turns out, is one of the objectives of the theatre company – to connect productions in some way.

After we returned to Matthews Yard and the production came to its conclusion, we were invited to stay and talk to the cast about what we had experienced. Listening to other audience members, it became even more evident how much more to the story there was. I started to realise that if I were to come and see the production again, I could have a completely different experience.

These actors were entirely immersed in their characters

This shows the complexity of thought involved in creating a successful immersive theatre piece. There are so many possibilities for error where the whole storyline could falter, from badly directed actors to not-fully-thought-through multiple storylines. As an actor myself, it’s in my nature to try to protect actors from potential pitfalls. So at first I felt a bit nervous asking questions, but I quickly realised that the performers were fully immersed in their characters and could take anything that was thrown at them.

Without a doubt, the actors in Land of Nod were brilliantly picked for their roles. There were stand-out moments when I was completely caught up in the drama of the events. I saw Morningstar in 2017, and Land of Nod is not only a more complex and larger-scale production, but also a more sophisticated piece of theatre. Owen Kingston has worked hard to progress his work in the last year. If he can develop that swiftly, I look forward to what he will produce for next year’s festival.

Eleanor Appleton

Eleanor Appleton

After working as an actress and scriptwriter for over ten years, Eleanor has a deep understanding of theatre and has developed a real appreciation for immersive theatre. Her first introduction to immersive theatre was acting in a Foolish People production called The Red Threatening Sky in 2010 and then reviewing a Secret Cinema event based on The Third Man for Hoxton FM. She is really excited to be reviewing for the Croydon Citizen.

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