HUG: My 5 star experience

imageAlas, I will be hugging no more. As everything inevitably does in life, this powerful production has concluded. How else am I supposed to start my day now!? ‘HUG,’ by Verity Standen, is a musical interactive performance piece that involved 16 singers travelling from Bristol to Edinburgh and numerous other international performers, such as myself,  getting together. The good news is, in the reality of life outside the fringe, HUG is far from over…

The show was startlingly well received, receiving consistent 5 star reviews and endless praise. I feel eternally grateful to have been a part of such a successful production, to have become friends with my talented cast, and most of all to have experienced something outside of my norm, to have stepped out of my comfort zone into a project I had no experience with and, frankly, was slightly uncomfortable with.

The concept of HUG is that each audience member is blindfolded and then individually hugged (funny that my auto type just spelled mugged- I swear there’s no mugging involved!) by a performer.  Now to the average person that description of a performance experience elicits shocked faces, tense shoulders and an awkward laugh, usually accompanied by the words, “wow that sounds interesting…but I don’t think I’m really into that kind of thing.” As a performer I freely admit I had the same doubts….

Hugging a complete stranger? And singing into their ear?  Well there’s definitely no room for error or wrong notes there! I feared I would be an inexperienced singer next to the rest of the lot, I feared I would be a tense performer and thus restrict my ‘hugee’s’ enjoyment, and I feared that I would not enjoy the overall experience.

Isn’t it wonderful when you are proven sensationally wrong?

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(The cast doing a circle jam warm up; Oodles of fun, clearly judging from my face)

‘HUG’ is the most uniquely strange and wonderful production I have been a part of. The music, sang A Capella, was brilliantly composed, emitting no words but simply sounds that evoke visions, feelings and emotions. Each production was uniquely and consistently surprising, moving and affectionately enjoyable.

That moment of improvisation when your ‘hugee’ isn’t moving into the position you are trying to put them in, that moment of tenderness you feel when your ‘hugee’ smiles,  that moment of disappointment when you think your ‘hugee’ isn’t enjoying the experience, that moment of connection when you make eye contact with your fellow cast member across the darkened room, that moment of empathy you feel when your ‘hugee’ cries…

It was startlingly emotional at times. For both audience and performer. I had a ‘hugee’ cry on my shoulder one afternoon, as many of them do; another afternoon I cried because the man I hugged reminded me of my father whom I miss. It might be, to some more reserved folk, a strange thought to be so intimate with a stranger, but if you put aside your reservations, I can assure you it can also be one of the most rewardingly meaningful experiences of your life…or at least your day.

Described as an ‘immersive choral bath’ by one reviewer, the performance is both engaging and interactive. It can be, to some, ‘a fleeting moment of quiet reflection and calm in a cluttered world’ (Bristol Culture). Being blindfolded and relying primarily on your sensories of sound and touch force you to be vastly more vulnerable, spiritual and…alive.

Sad as I am that I will no longer be continuing with the show, as mentioned earlier, the production is far from finished. There is talk of London and New York transfers (and if I have my way: Canada), upcoming festivals and further performances. The show has been nominated for two awards and was filmed by the BBC. We nearly doubled the number of shows we performed during the fringe due to popular demand.

It is an incredible experience as a performer to feel so influenced by a project you are a part of. I’m sincerely grateful to HUG for including me, for inspiring me, and for invigorating me.

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 (The cast of HUG!)

Check out some of our reviews below:

1) http://mildlybitter.blogspot.co.uk/2014_08_01_archive.html
2) http://www.timeout.com/london/theatre/hug-review
3) http://acousticengineering.wordpress.com/2014/08/15/hug-by-verity-standen-review/
4) http://exeuntmagazine.com/reviews/mmm-hmmm-hug/
5) http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2014/jul/20/latitude-festival-theatre-review

I wish HUG every success in the future, and encourage YOU to attend!

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Categories: London, Theatre, Travel | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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