Party Skills for the End of the World

Nigel Barrett and Louise Mari, of immersive theatre group Shunt, were the two instigators of this event. It was a mixture of cocktail party, childhood simplicity, survival-skills and an apocalyptic office party. The party took place in the Centenary Building in Salford, a structure with the appearance of an abandoned office block: it was well suited to its subject matter with cages, internal glass-boxed rooms and tunnels. 

Mixology was on the menu in room one. Organisers ushered the crowd of people downstairs. Party hats were thrown from the balconies above and onto the floor below. Slightly confused, I picked one up, and just like every Christmas time it was too small for my head. The organisers performed a dance routine for the audience, then a song from a piece of paper – ‘S is for stay alive’! It was more fun than end of the world, and refreshing considering the usual dangerous visions for the end of civilisation.

Childhood Simplicity: Participants learned the guitar, made a lava lamp, blew darts down a straw at a melon (one that taken hits a few times too many). We sat on the floor, rather pleased to be hammering at spoons.

Survival-Skills: A series of activities in rooms that the audience explored. My first room was pitch black, with a galaxy of stars painted onto the floor. Did you know that there are constellations of fourteen men and women, nine birds, two insects and nineteen land animals represented in the night sky? We learned some practical tips regarding how to find north with your watch. Mobile GPS did not exist at this party. Then there was a meat-eaters section to learn the skills of capturing an animal and skinning the rabbit once you did, with a room of edible plants next (for seasoning). 

The psychology of the ‘survival instinct’, the preservation of survival, has been well documented.  There have been positive constructive behaviours reported such as in the sinking of the Costa Concordia in 2012; people used their mobile GPS to establish location, or made ladders out of sheets.  An extreme example of survival behaviour is the 1972 plane crash in the Andes where survivors ate flesh of their dead friends. After incidents of survival people can experience a range of emotions including ‘survivor guilt’ and behaviour such as looting shops.

Apocalyptic Office Party: ‘go, go, go’ was instigated by the organisers once more.  Down a tunnel with emergency lights and noises. Mesh wired cages and art installations gave a dream like quality. Tree branches came from the ceiling, office cabinets stood empty. Disco lights beamed, a band played, people danced.  Then a speech with a dark undercurrent, touching upon survival, was delivered by one of the performers at length. As we left, each person got a party bag which included a condom. I was surprised to read the amount of uses for this stretchy tool, and I walked out into the sun holding my new balloon. (DR)

- Dominic Rogers

Links relevant to this diagnosis:

Survival Psychology - The Psychologist

Looting After a Disaster - Live Science

3 Ways to Find North

The Milky Way

Edible weeds in the UK