THEATRE Orculos The Former Coach Station, London

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
You aren't allowed to enter the labyrinth until you have taken your shoes and socks off and brought to mind some deep personal question you would like answered. I have to admit that, at this point, the one question obsessing me was "Are there hidden film cameras here?". As soul searching inquiry, I realised that this was unlikely to pass muster. Not even embarked yet on the search, and there I was meeting myself at the door, clearly identified as vain, chronically uptight, untrusting and trivial. But, then, inhibited living-in-the-head types like me are precisely the ones who will benefit most from Orculos, an experience that demonstrates that being brought to your senses can involve the body as well as the mind.

At the last Lift Festival, Deborah Warner's St Pancras Project sent people off on individual walkabouts through the derelict glory of the St Pancras Hotel, which stirred with ghosts of its grand past. Orculos, set not far away in a former coach station in King's Cross, is both like and very unlike that venture. Once again, you're on your own - a particularly unnerving business at the start when you tumble through a wardrobe full of clothes and find yourself, no, not in Narnia, but seemingly trapped in a hall of mirrors. This turns out to be the anteroom to an amazing labyrinth of darkly draped corridors and mysterious inhabited chambers that is the creation of Colombian director Enrique Vargas and a team of experts in areas such as "aroma design" and "sensorial language".

Where the focus of the St Pancras Project was on the building and its poetic suspension between two lives, the aim of Orculos is to put you in touch with yourself, the idea being that labyrinths set you off on a self-revealing search. Groping down pitch-dark fabric-sided walkways, you blunder into clearings, if that's the right word to describe the maze of gauzy white curtains in which a lovely girl with a mocking laugh invites you to pursue her, or the small room where you find yourself dancing with a stunningly sexy, calculatedly androgynous devil; for this last, you pay a price.

To describe the experience in too much detail would lessen its extraordinary wonder-inducing impact. If, like me, your heart sinks at the prospect of Tarot mysticism, don't be put off when, in a breathtakingly beautiful moonlit oasis of patterned sand and stone, you're asked to choose a card and are treated to a reading. Though the Tarot pack provides a kind of structure to what ensues, it's the succession of sensations and the emotions and thoughts they arouse that matters. The emphasis is on making you "feel" your question (which you aren't required to divulge and to which you have to work out your own answer). Intensely soothing one moment, tantalisingly erotic or alarming the next, the labyrinth - with its endlessly shifting sounds and smells and spooky collection of human guides - cures you, for a while, of the British belief that to lay yourself open to wonder is necessarily to lay yourself open to ridicule.

You come out feeling that you've had what Dame Edna Everage would describe as a sauna bath of the spirit. You're offered a cup of tea, rather as if you'd just been giving blood. Here, though, the indebtedness works the other way round.

To 15 June. Lift box-office: 0171-312 1995

Paul Taylor

Comments