The Smile Off Your Face at Kilkenny Arts Festival

Rothe House, High Street, Kilkenny.
Friday 6th August 2010, 8pm.

I had read on the Kilkenny Arts website about The Smile Off Your Face and had found it intriguing, particularly “You are blindfolded, you are in a wheelchair, tied up. There is no stage.”

What could it be? What would happen to me inside the darkness of a blindfold where my imagination and senses of sound and smell were all I had at my disposal? I couldn’t not do it, so I signed up myself and Darragh. The show was free and time slots were going fast.
We arrived about 10 minutes early for our 8pm slot but there were very few people around. The serenity of the Rothe House courtyard was perfect for it, there was a spiritual, almost religious feel about everything, people talking quietly about their experience and the experiences of others. Almost immediately an older gentleman was wheeled out with a big grin on his face. His daughter was waiting for him, smiling herself with the shared knowledge and shared experience. Darragh was invited to take the now empty seat in the wheelchair, I took a quick photo of him and off he went.

Several minutes later a young woman came out. In floods of tears. She was not upset but happy with the experience she had just had and moved by it. It probably should have scared me but it just meant I knew I was in for something special.

So I got into the wheelchair outside and gave myself over to the lovely, smiley, soft-spoken man who lifted my feet onto the steps of the wheelchair, tied my wrists together gently “to take away sense of touch” and asked if I was claustrophobic before slipping a black eye-mask onto my face. All I was left with were sounds and the motion of the wheelchair as I glided inside. The Smile Off Your Face forces you to give yourself over to strangers and to trust them to take care of you in the dark. Inside, I was wheeled around in the dark, hearing different sounds and voices from different corners. As I was wheeled along I imagined that I was in some kind of Willie Wonka wonderland filled with magical things, then a rollercoaster in the dark like Magic Mountain in Disneyland – I could have been anywhere and touching anything but in a very wonderful way. At times I wasn’t entirely sure if I was indoors or out but it didn’t matter.

Most people seem to have come out of this experience with a smile firmly ON their face. I came out feeling lighter, happier and full of joy and wonder for a new experience. Darragh had the same reaction, elation, joy and wonder, a beautiful experience shared between friends.

So what happens through those doors?

You’ll have to try it out yourself to find out!

The Smile Off Your Face will be at the Ulster Bank Theatre Festival later this year from September 30th to October 3rd, along with two other similar shows in the trilogy. You can check out details here. Tickets are €15.00 or €36.00 for all three shows.

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