Intimate art installation lets you crawl into bed with a stranger


Seven beds and seven actors awaiting company. Pic: Everything By My Side

It’s not often the fog of suits that is Canary Wharf can be lifted, but this month many a corporate zombie head was momentarily raised at the sight of seven strangers in seven beds awaiting someone’s company.

Everything By My Side is a UK theatrical debut, part of the London International Festival of Theatre (LIFT), which runs from June 1 to July 2.

Audiences are invited to take 15 minutes of their busy day to tuck up in a pristine white bed next to a complete stranger and listen to whispers of long-lost memories of childhood tales.

The installation is the creation of celebrated contemporary Argentinian artist Fernando Rubio. It aims to reawaken long-lost stories that have lain dormant somewhere in the recesses of our mind and soul, these sleepy encounters become a place for escaped nightmares, daydreams and silent connections.

When I slipped out from beneath the sheets and placed my feet in my shoes, I felt I owed something to the actress I’d just spent 15 minutes laying next to.For quarter of an hour I had stared into a stranger’s eyes in silence while she floated me through a journey of childhood tales. I completely forgot my surroundings – a futuristic bustling walkway in the middle of Canary Wharf – and was immersed into a deeply personal experience.

It was strange to walk away from such an experience without clapping or discussing the encounter with others who were there. But there was no one else, only the actress and I had shared that moment.

The location of the performance seemed very poignant. The decision to stage Everything By My Side in the middle of a busy walkway in an area renowned for its impersonality and anonymity provided a stark juxtaposition to the intense intimacy of the performance.

Audience interaction is not everyone’s cup of tea, but this installation’s call for audiences’ silence and openness to the challenging ideas and stories being told only enhanced my experience.

Some may not be drawn to this form of theatrical performance but as a first timer myself, I can only recommend it. I left feeling as though I had been given a rare opportunity to glimpse into someone’s past with them, not that I had shared a bed with an actress.

Creator Fernando Rubio is a Buenos Aries-based Argentinian director, playwright, actor, and visual artist whose work strives to create a dialogue with the sprawling, urban world it inhabits.

The installation moved to the South Bank in the days after Canary Wharf and will appear at Latitude Festival Theatre Stage from Thursday July 14 to Sunday July 17.



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