Duckie's Lullaby at The Barbican
FIVE STARS! *claps quietly*
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This morning I awoke in a darkened room with 50 other people and some cute chickens. And, no, this isn't a regular occurrence for me.
Duckie's "Lullaby" at Barbican is the most magical theatrical experience I have encountered in a long, long time. A truly immersive, captivating and well-conceived piece of performance which I wish could have lasted for a lot, lot longer.
Lullaby occupies the space between waking and sleeping, in the hazy hinterland when you aren't quite sure whether you are in a dream or not. It's a disconcerting, but amazing place which is superbly realised by the Duckie team.
On arrival at the Barbican you are greeted by pajama-clad hosts, who sign you in and give you your bed allocation (beds are available in single, double or even triples) and direct you to a changing area to get into your nightwear. Hot chocolate and herbal teas are available as you wait for the Lullaby space to open.
Entering the main Lullaby space you are confronted by two rings of beds surrounding a circular performance space. The lighting is subdued and intimate and the mood is one of nervous excitement. There is a feeling of the night before Christmas, and it is charming to see so many grown people grinning widely as they enter the room.
You are shown to your bed, in my case a double in the innernost circle of beds, by more hosts in PJs. Eyemasks, ear plugs and water are all provided in case of difficulty sleeping. The bedding (organic and freshly laundered courtesey of Toast) is stylish and inviting.
It is only once immersed in this odd, but wonderful, world that the performance itself begins. Starting with a music box lullaby, followed by a beautifully harmonised lullaby performed by the two female actors, the mood is instantly sopoforic and calming.
The show then takes a turn to the dreamlike, with an octopus dance, which is lulling and hypnotic. Continuing, the performers showcase a variety of songs, costumes, bedtime stories, dances and musical pieces. In the wrong hands these performances could be arch and knowing, or worse, simply pretentious. But Duckie inject a sense of fun and humour into each of the acts and keep you giggling as well as being lulled to sleep.
After a short pause, the second act begins, with a much more subdued tone, and darker lighting. At this point, the idea is that you should stop fighting sleep and let the performance send you from Duckie's faux dreamscape into the real land of nod.
Which is exactly what happened, and after an amazingly restful night's sleep I was gently roused by a fake sunrise and the sound of chicks chirruping. Which, it was later revealed, were real little chicks and adorable to boot.
After a breakfast buffet (perhaps the boiled eggs were in slightly poor taste in light of the chicks in the performance) showers and changing facilities were provided.
Now, as I write this, I'm still in slight disbelief that everything I experienced wasn't actually an elaborate dream. But what a wonderful dream it was.
Photo: Hugo Glendinning