The Stick House by Raucous is an incredible assault on your senses; from the moment I stepped into the dark cavern under Temple Meads I could smell a damp earthy forest. Walking slowly and crunching over an uneaven surface of gravel, paving stones and soil; I was closely surrounded by everyone else who had come to see the show but I didn’t feel the safety of numbers.
We had each been given an oversized name badge, hung around our necks it was awkward to walk without feeling like I was going knock in to someone.
An overside table and chairs is the first thing we saw, as the scene is set with a projected image and booming voices, hands on a poker table acted out the first scene as we learnt of what is to become of Marietta, the central character.
Next we were led through by light and sound coming from deeper within the tunnels. As I went further in to the dark and my eyes adjusted to the glowing light I found The Stick House; an incredible structure built into the solid arches of the station foundations. Inside was Marietta and the Woodcutter, and as voyeurs we spied through the chair legs in to their private scene.
The play tells the story of Marietta coming of age, she was lost to the Beast in a game of cards and this is her fate. Over her head is a cage made of sticks. She is in love with the Woodcutter and is hoping to escape the Beast and finally be free.
Although, she seems so at one with her surroundings and has become an enemy of the nearest village as the people believe her to be an evil witch who brings bad luck, I can’t image how she would cope being ‘free’.
Marietta’s only friend is the Hobbledehoy, another outcast who is not welcomed by the local villagers. Nothing is what it seems in this strange enchanted world.
We are invited in to The Stick House, and yet I couldn’t work out if we were really welcome. Even when given a protective stick person, lovingly created by Marietta as a protective charm, which further affected my senses as it became a beacon warning of danger.
The Stick House uses so many clever tools, from building sound to create a world beyond the forest, to projections bringing other characters to life and further extending this folklore land. It is enchanting but deeply disturbing, and I felt that I was slightly removed from the terror by being in such a foreign environment.
It was upon leaving, as I removed my name badge and gave up my temporary identity I felt like I was going through some strange, ritualistic ceremony. Walking out of the arched world and back in to real city was when the true horror of what I saw dawned on me and really remained.
This is phenomenal theatre, gripping story telling by writer and Raucous Creative Director Sharon Clark and heartbreaking to think that The Stick House won’t exist forever and I won’t know what really became of Marietta.
The Stick House continues at The Lo-co Klub in Bristol until 17th October 2015.