The Story of Life

6:22 pm in Review by EVNT

The Story of Life was Bearded Kitten’s latest party. According to their website, they make “interactive entertainment for events and marketing” and they have an extensive track record on the music festival scene (Glastonbury, Secret Garden Party, Bestival, T in the Park, etc.)  A standalone event like The Story of Life comes with specific challenges though. Unlike a festival where people might have the time and the head-space to immerse themselves more fully in interactive events, this was a crowd that was largely here to party like it’s….err…Friday night. Everything had to be instantly accessible and understandable and nothing would really work that required too great a time investment.

You enter the space through inflatable legs- the idea is that you’re being born into the space but the effort that had gone into the legs themselves unfortunately wasn’t matched by the representation or placement genitalia (pinkish curtains hanging down loosely, basically). Once inside, the first room represents infancy. There was a play-pen, which seemed to consist of people sitting down on the floor in a fenced off area and occasionally scrawling obscenities on a blackboard. Next to this were two bungee rope swings; there was the potential for some kind of duel game here but it seemed that participants weren’t really into doing anything structured so they just bounced up and down a bit and went crashing into each other. Apart from this, the room consisted of themed decorations, a dance-floor, a bar, etc.

The second room was young adulthood and the focus here was on getting married. It had been designed to be a kind of chapel where there were “shotgun weddings” at specific times throughout the night and, at one point, the dance-floor was showered in confetti. Elsewhere there were some more interactive elements like the Job Centre, where you had to compete against your friends to gain your ideal job, and a driving simulation game where you could “learn to drive”.

The Story of Life was a fun night and having the different rooms representing different stages of life (there was also a retirement home where there were magic shows and bingo and a funeral parlour with karaoke) gave each space an identity beyond the type of music that was being played. However, there was no through-line to the experience on an individual level, which is really what might have made it a pervasive experience. As it stands, there were a series of events that sat on top of a club night where people dressed up. The effort that some people went to with their costumes and the way they remained in character throughout the night (old man, old lady, baby) was probably the most entertaining element of the evening- the party itself remains a kind of platform for individual expression. The challenge is for those of us who are interested in pervasive experiences of this kind is how we can integrate the interactivity more fully into the experience.

William Drew