Many of us would agree that spending your birthday with a room full of strangers would generally not be the most ideal way to celebrate the occasion - however with The Guerrilla Museum's new interactive and immersive live artwork, All Of My Friends Were There, that's exactly what we get to do. The show a lucky dip of adventure, where you are allocated to a group and led through a number of rooms with performances and experiences revolving around birthdays.
We are split into our groups before we even enter the venue and my plus one is not to be seen again until the end, so it's time to make new friends and party like it's all our birthdays. It's difficult to review this type of show when you only get to experience about one quarter of it, but the conversations post-show made it clear that there was a lot more happening than that which a single person is able to experience.
One of the first rooms my group is taken into involves a pair of highly entertaining hosts supervising us through some traditional childhood games such as musical chairs and pass the parcel, allowing a fun, free-spirited atmosphere to take over the room. While each room visited had amusing and cheery performances, there were some where I was left wondering how the birthday theme linked in. At one point, we are left in an authentically decorated 90s bedroom -
which could easily have been mine back in my teen years - but with
no context about this room, we spent our time looking at the posters on
the walls and the video works playing on the television. However, as each evening has an entirely new story based on the questionnaire completed by an attendee prior to the show, these are tailored to reflect that person's real-life birthday experiences.
The entire design of All Of My Friends Were There is exceptional and what the team at The Guerrilla Museum have been able to set up inside Theatre Works is highly impressive and transforms the venue into a labyrinth of surprise and fun. While acknowledging that this was a preview performance, there were
times of substantial waiting between rooms, which began to draw me out
of the experience but hopefully as the season develops these timing kinks will be ironed out. The show culminates with everyone coming together to celebrate the surprise 'birthday' of one of our own with champagne, fairy bread and dancing.
My plus one's experience was vastly different to mine in terms of what they participated in and how it made them feel, and perhaps this is the point of All Of My Friends Were There. Taking something as personal as a birthday is always going to mean different things to different people - some people love them and some people don't - but where this show succeeds, is in highlighting the importance of surrounding ourselves with people who care for us and love us and in never underestimating the role that we play in each other's lives. Knowing that is worth more than all the lolly bags in the world.
Venue: Theatre Works, 14 Acland St, St Kilda
Season: Until 11 October | Mon - Sat 7:30pm, Sat 2pm, Sun 5pm
Bookings: Melbourne Festival
*Original review appeared on Theatre Press on 7 October 2017.