A Series Of Impossible Acts sees love and pain revealed in futile tasks

A Series of Impossible Acts

A Series of Impossible Acts - Credit: Archant

The Secret Theatre Company’s new show sees the audience take centre stage, says Ben Lazarus.

“It’s a bit like the feeling you get from doing a massive bungee jump or diving into the freezing cold sea,” says actress Matti Houghton of her latest role.

A Series of Increasingly Impossible Acts, devised by The Secret Theatre Company, sees the audience take centre stage in deciding how this riotous show will play out by selecting which cast member plays the protagonist.

“It is a series of increasingly impossible acts that one person does every night,” says Houghton.

“We go around the audience at the start and each of us gets someone to write our names on a piece of paper which they then put in a hat.

“One audience member picks out the name of the person to undertake all these tasks. It is completely random.”

Once chosen, the nine other cast members put the protagonist through their paces in a series of endurance tests which range from licking their elbow, holding their hand in an ice bucket, eating a whole lemon, walking through walls or moving objects with their mind.

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Houghton says the 20 tasks and searching questions about their fears and insecurities vary between the physically and emotionally challenging.

“Fear wrestling is the worst. You have to state three of your fears and then get wrestled by another person.

“It is literally free-form wrestling, you strip each other’s clothes off. There is no health and safety precaution and it can get quite brutal.

“One time at the Arts Depot in North Finchley, I was wrestling another girl and she split her chin open. It’s quite a miracle that is the only major injury we’ve had because we really do go for it.”

The show is an emotional rollercoaster, says Houghton for both audience and performers who do not have the usual back-up of a script and character.

“It is totally exhausting when you are the protagonist. You go on an emotional journey. We have to be pretty honest when asked these big questions. It’s a draining show to do because you are not hiding behind a character or supported by a text. The difficult thing about this is - it’s just you.”

Despite its gruelling nature, Houghton loves the fact that the show “strips down the artifice of theatre”.

“Everything you see is real. Everything is in the moment because it has to be.

“The protagonist doesn’t know what coming next so it’s moving away from the idea that the audience and actors know what’s coming, which is one of the big problems with theatre.”

The show was a hit at this year’s Edinburgh fringe where Guardian reviewer Lyn Gardner described it as a joyous, giddy celebration of “human endeavour in all its absurdity, futility and insane optimism”.

Houghton agrees that in showing an individual struggle to endure, it deals with the big issues we all face in life: “love, relationships, and pain.”

“In moments, it’s really uplifting, and others it’s really heartbreaking. It’s a journey of loss.”

A Series of Impossible Acts runs at The Tricycle in Kilburn High Road from January 12-31.