You arrive at a party where you know the host, but that's it. The host is nowhere to be seen, everyone else is really cool looking and laughing in groups, and you have no idea what to do now. Take out your phone? Go hide out in the bathroom for a while? How many of us would feel free enough to go and engage with a total stranger?
Mark Durkan's ALIBI encourages us to do the latter. ALIBI is a reality fiction experience, lasting 3 hours, partially inspired by the cultural practice of LARP, or Live Action Role Playing. The setting is a bar, and we, the participants, have been invited to attend a party there. Personally, there are few things I hate more than a party full of strangers, and yet when I arrived at Project Bar, there was an intimidatingly large group of participants there, waiting to create a fictional world with other complete strangers.
ALIBI begins with a workshop, to help us create the characters we'll play later on in the night. We are grouped, given reasons to be in the bar, give ourselves new names and identities. There are no restrictions given to the type of characters we can create, but it's intriguing to wonder what we are basing these decisions on. What do these decisions say about the people we really are, or really want to be, secretly? How much am I revealing about myself if I suggest my character is, say, shallow, or needy? How much have I revealed of myself by even considering that?
The people I'm with seem infinitely more interesting then the characters they're going to be playing in the game, and I'm a little bit sad I can't be at a party with them instead. But the workshop ends, phones are left behind, we cross the threshold into the bar, and we are no longer ourselves. I am now Irene, who likes to introduce herself as Irina, and I stay Irene until the party ends...mostly.
With the fiction ALIBI established, strangers attempted to create and become part of a community. Despite the reality of the odd situation we were in, no one around me blatantly broke the fiction. There was something deeply genuine in this unspoken agreement, and as a rule, despite the freedom to behave however we wished, people were kind to one another. But despite the freedom and the set up offered, the more I tried to 'be' my character, the more detached I felt from what was really happening. The longer I spent at the ALIBI party, the more I searched for meaningful connections, or conversations...which is exactly how parties tend to play out for me in real life too.
ALIBI left me with complicated feelings – a terrifying glimpse into who I actually might be as a person, a slight early hangover, and a tenderness towards the group who pretended and shared together for the guts of 3 hours. In a cynical, individual-driven world, ALIBI suggested other ways of being, and connecting.
Aine for DRAFF
ALIBI ran at Project Arts Centre as part of Live Collision International Festival.