Director Stewart Laing on The Salon Project
Immersive theatre project hopes to recreate the intellectual gatherings of late 19th century Paris
Show us the man or woman who isn’t even a little excited by the thought of dressing up and becoming someone else for the night, and we’ll show you a liar. Now best known as a director, but originally a designer, Untitled Projects’ director Stewart Laing is not someone to hide his delight in matters sartorial, as the blog for The Salon Project – an online lookbook of bustles, fur collars, white ties and even beards that have taken his fancy – very much belies.
This uniquely immersive theatre project, presented as a real-life version of social networking, will transform the Traverse’s main theatre into an opulent simulation of a room in a fin-de-siècle home, and up to 60 audience members per night into period versions of themselves, kitted out in specially sourced costumes from wardrobe departments around Scotland. ‘I think it’s a thrill,’ says Laing, ‘I think it will make people move and stand in a different way, and I’m just really interested to know what difference it will make.’
Costumed in their finery, participants will be led into the salon, where an evening of intellectual conversation and entertainment awaits. ‘What we didn’t want to do’ insists Laing ‘was something like that old television programme The Good Old Days where people would get dressed up in period costumes and watch period music in a period theatre. We thought that it would be more interesting to look in both directions.’ Thus the roster of speakers who will entertain the salon’s guests is drawn from the ranks of contemporary intellectual thought, including Robert Wringham, editor of daydreamers’ fanzine The New Escapologist and architectural theorist Katarina Bonnevier.
Seeking to gently engage those present in real conversations about real contemporary matters, the company aims to provoke consideration of what the future could hold. ‘I think what we’re trying to do is to get people to place themselves in a historical continuum,’ says Laing, ‘so that they’re looking backwards and they’re looking forwards – and really one can’t separate those things.’