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Last week, under the Bristolian evening sun, we walked to our Jacobs Wells Baths building to see RAUCOUS Theatre’s “Ice Road” play. The play is set in Leningrad during the city’s siege in 1942, and what a contrast it was to walk from the warm streets into the venue’s Siberian snow-covered floor. The audience experience began even before the play kicked off as we walked into the bar and were surrounded by a plethora of brutal propaganda posters on the walls, a few inviting shots of vodka sitting on the counter and traditional Russian songs playing in the background. Some of us even received a flower from a unidentified woman and were told to keep in order to soon pay our respects…
As the mysterious atmosphere begun to sink in and the theatre enthusiasts started mingling around with a glass in hand, performers suddenly stormed into the bar for a breath-taking in medias res opening. Shouting words in Russian, rummaging through the audience visibly in search for something or someone, the characters urged the spectators to follow them into the main venue space where the play truly began.
There was something captivating about the cold, industrial decor that we then entered. The Jacobs Wells Baths’ arched ceiling’s imposing height, filled by an industrial scaffolding at one end of the room, left the rest of the space rough and intimidating. Looking around, there were no seats to be seen – it became clear that audience participation was going to be involved. And so the story began to unfold, introducing us to four orphans who’s daily routine is to attempt to survive the blockade of Leningrad, with bomb explosions for their night lullaby.
What followed was an hour of intense immersive experience of the Leningrad siege, seen through the survival of the characters whose story partly stems from historical witness accounts. Through the use of animation and projection-mapping, music and audience interaction, the performance gave us a real taste of the tragic life of Leah, Zoya, Tati and Kub. In spite of terror and arising tension, the fickle flame of a dream keeps them bound together throughout the play; escaping the city’s freezing hell on its one remaining intact path to freedom – the “Ice Road”. Would there have been seats, we would have hung onto them until the last scene to know if they make it. No seats to hang onto made it even more thrilling, from the beginning to the very end.
“Ice Road” is on twice every day until the 19th of November at our joint Jacobs Wells Baths venue | 18:30 and 20:30 | Tickets £18.5 full price / £16.5 students and over 60 | More information at http://ow.ly/cSs530g48t3