“Try to look inconspicuous” was the cryptic advice given to us in an email from the creators of Monument. The group of people milling around at 8:45 pm wired into their headphones, in a nearly deserted station, and tried to look nonchalant but appeared anything but. Once the audio started, it was clear that everyone there was in for something out of the ordinary. Part play, part interactive experience, Monument takes even the most hardened Londoners on a trip that will open their eyes to a familiar city and leave them considering the faces they pass by every day in a new light.
After meeting at a secret location revealed only on the morning of the performance, viewers race across the city, pausing by some of its most famous landmarks as the audio draws them in to the secret lives of those around them. After about ten minutes, you are drawn into a world in which you can’t quite decide who is part of the play and who is not. Whilst at times this element is a little overstated at the expense of developing a real plot, it does give you something to think about, questioning the ‘Big Brother’ style surveillance of the city.
These moments of contemplation about a surveillance state, individuals within the masses that flood London’s streets, and our country’s sometimes less-than-welcoming attitude to newcomers flowed somewhat strangely into a walk across the city in search of a cowboy… But, as the Spaghetti Western style music starts up suddenly London isn’t your city, it’s your setting. Plugged into your headphones you feel as though you too are a player in the Monument game- however, what the point of the game is never quite becomes clear.
This clever and immersive idea certainly allows you to see London in a new light, and the whisky passed around at the end creates a convivial atmosphere as though you are all fugitives, fighting against the surveillance state and reclaiming the overpopulated streets of the capital. Public space becomes a private playground through the intimacy of listening to stories unfold through your headphones, and the bustle of surrounding street noise alongside the puzzled faces of passersby, which only adds to the atmosphere of discovery. Engaging as the medium is, Monument could perhaps benefit from a more clear thread of storyline; although the sporadic snippets of life are key to its charm, you are left questioning a little what it was all for.
At just £10 a ticket, Monument is a unique experience, definitely worth a go this summer – you’ll never see the anonymous faces of London in quite the same way again.
For more information, check out Wiretapper’s website here.