Marylebone play sees audience as stars of the show

A new immersive theatre show sees the audience as the cast- with a load of helium baloons to represent their life

Have you ever seen a play you thought you could improve? Or do you see yourself as a budding actor? HalfCut theatre company’s show Shelf-Life hopes to celebrate life by including the audience in their show, staged at Marylebone Gardens, the ex BBC building in Marylebone.

“It came from trying to find an absurd way of looking at what we celebrate in life and why we do” says Joe Iredale, one of the show’s creators and actors. The play hopes to take the idea of the average life experience and mix it up by adding audience participation and the use of helium balloons. Each audience member is invited to take an ‘interactive life journey’ along with the play’s actors, beginning in the basement of the venue where audience members are born and finishing on the rooftop where their life journey ends.

The life of audience members is represented by a helium balloon, given to each person on arrival. According to Iredale it represents “the fragile shell that is the human body”. Despite the wacky use of props Iredale and the other creators are hoping to really celebrate normal life experiences by “going for a conventional life journey”. Each storey of the building (the ex BBC building to be exact) represents a different milestone such as puberty and university and the audience member is also given a series of mini stories to make up their own story (so an active imagination is a must).

Just like real life it can all end quite suddenly; the balloon can pop at random signalling the end of your virtual life. If this happens the audience member is given a black balloon and will still progress to the rooftop to release the balloon into the sky signalling the end of life and the journey we take. “The balloon pops at random- if you die and your time comes to an end you are given a black balloon and your interactions will be different” says Iredale. The play is a truly immersive experience: it may help audiences treasure our short transient time in this world or it may just be a whole lot of fun.

Shelf-Life is at Marylebone Gardens, 35 Marylebone High Street, from October 16 to November 10. To book, visit