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The Isle of the Unexpected with Jura Whisky: Looking Glass Cocktail Club, 13th – 22nd October 2016

| Culture, Theatre | 12/10/2016


Immersive arts company Art of Disappearing – formed by Rachel Champion and Tristan Shorr – bring their latest project to London tomorrow in association with Jura Whisky.  In a unique drinking and cultural experience, for seven nights (13th-15th and 19th-22nd) The Isle of the Unexpected transports ticket-holders from Shoreditch’s buzzing Looking Glass Cocktail Club to the small Scottish island of Jura.  There, each group will wander through a rich, audio-led experience, under the pretext of finding inspiration for a mysterious filmmaker.  

Before entering Champion and Shorr’s evocative world later this week, Ian Cater caught up with them to discuss their inspiration for the project and what participants can expect during their 30 minute slot.

Art of Disappearing are quickly garnering a reputation for some of the most visceral and intimate immersive experiences around.  Eschewing the no-expense-spared visuals of Secret Cinema or Punchdrunk Productions, Rachel Champion and Tristan Shorr focus firmly on audio, combining original 3D sound design, music and elements of virtual reality.  Their aim isn’t to be noticed.  It’s to step back and let people experience things on their own terms.

fullsizerender-2%5b1%5dChampion explains: “Our name refers to us leaving the space as performers and opening it out for others to participate in.  It also alludes to participants disappearing from reality for a set time through the audio experience.”

Much of the technical expertise stems from Shorr – a composer and sound artist – whose ear for audio mixes with Champion’s ability to create engaging one-to-one theatrical performances.  This helps them to, in their own words, “take you somewhere else”.

Dramatic scenery 

For this project, that ‘somewhere else’ is Jura: a mountainous island in the Inner Hebrides, known for its infertile terrain and whisky distillery.  On the island, each group takes part in challenges to help Eric – an enigmatic movie director with creative block – complete his masterpiece.

The spectacular geography appears in Art of Disappearing’s YouTube trailer, and it’s intriguing to see how they bring such dramatic scenery to life through sound.  To this end, Shorr spent three days on the island in August, listening and observing.  “I would have liked to stay longer,” he says.  “It’s an incredibly beautiful island with a welcoming community, revolving around the distillery.  I don’t want to sound like the Jura Tourist Board, but it’s well worth a visit.”

Participants will also get to use their taste buds, sampling drams as they undertake scenarios “intrinsically linked with Jura, its people and whisky.”


The scenarios had to be agreed by Jura Whisky – owned by Whyte & Mackay – leading to an inevitable degree of compromise.  “This was a different way of working for us,” admits Champion.  “There are always certain parameters with working in a collaboration.”

One of the parameters they welcomed was a drive for authenticity.  “Usually our work is fictional.  We create our own narratives, histories and futures,” she says of previous projects (detailed below).  “However, Isle of the Unexpected has more of an informative, rather than imaginative, spin to it.  That said, we’ve taken some poetic license!”

Another compromise was moving away from their traditional two-person interaction – which Champion describes as “house style” – to groups of three or four, making the project more attractive commercially.

Food for thought

Champion and Shorr recognise the need for commercial success and – at times – to do more than merely entertain, as Londoners are demanding more from immersive experiences than pure theatre.

“We have a new work in the pipeline, experimenting with a stronger movement vocabulary and working with food,” Champion says.  “The work will eventually sit in a restaurant or restaurant-style environment with a nod to a Peter Greenaway aesthetic.”

Any fans of The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover should start licking their lips and What’s On London will keep you posted on developments.  In the meantime, we recommend you book your spot to The Isle of the Unexpected before you miss the boat.

The Isle of the Unexpected is taking place at Looking Glass Cocktail Club, 49 Hackney Rd, E2 7NX between 13th-15th and 19th-22nd October (18:00-22:00).  For tickets, head here.

Art of Disappearing’s previous projects:

  • The Lost Room – Participants embark on a guided imaginative journey, inside an intimate space filled with detailed props, challenges and tasks.  Showing at the V&A Museum of Childhood in February 2017.
  • The Stand In – Pairs use audio and scripts to perform together and against each other in a public setting.  Shown in various locations, galleries and dance festivals.
  • The Last Resort – A dystopian walking tour along a desolate beach where participants’ reality is put into question.  Art of Disappearing’s first commissioned work and major outdoor project, performed at Brighton Festival this year.

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