Empower audiences through immersive performance: Hysteria by 00100ENSEMBLE | Review

Words by Inês Carvalho.

Helsinki, the last evening of summer. The chilly breeze of late afternoon paces up my steps.
The GPS tracks an old building far from the city centre. I have no idea where it leads me – nor
where the performance would take me during its two-hour length. Nonetheless, the
unpredictability is precisely what makes the immersive performance so unique. And that is
one of the propositions behind 00100ENSEMBLE, a leading multi-arts company that
combines dance, theatre, circus, and music to create large-scale immersive works and – as
they introduce themselves – worlds that we have not yet seen or experienced.

Hysteria is the latest work from the Helsinki-based collective, which is back for a series of
twelve shows following its premiere in February 2022. The performance takes over a
hundred-year-building and creates a multitude of site-specific acts across four floors. The
premise is simple: each person is welcome to experience it in a distinct and personal way.
The audience is free to navigate the building and choose where, when and how they want to
dive into the piece.

Hysteria – the ninth large-scale production from 00100ENSEMBLE – draws a tale about
forcing people into boxes and what happens when it becomes too much. The tension,
madness, affection, and thrill that shape our human existence in contemporary society are
embodied in this hypnotic piece by a cast of twelve artists. The performance space extends
across rooms, corridors, stairs, basement and dark rooms meticulously decorated to create
a diverse atmosphere behind every door. Attendees can touch, walk, sit, move and become
an element of the piece throughout the show.

As soon as the front door opens, the world outside is left behind. Everyone follows the
required dress code: full black. Gradually, all the faces in the improvised foyer become
covered by raven-alike masks. Everything is ready to submerge into Hysteria‘s brand new
world. Shadows of spectators wander up and down the building, and different stimulus
guides the route: sound, screams, lights. A bath in the middle of a candlelit room stages
the magnitude of birth. Next door, a broken-hearted woman lies in her bed while a disco
ball flashes a dizzy dancer at the end of the corridor. Solos, duos, and group performances
happen simultaneously. The audience must make their own choices: Which performer would
you want to follow? Which door would you like to open?

A ritualistic trio loops suspended arms by the sounds of nature. Orgasmic sounds comes
from a dining room, quickly replaced by a karaoke-alike solo. Hysteria evolves by
continuously challenging the conventional passive spectator role, which we can easily link to
Jacques Rancière’s approach to audience engagement mentioned in the book The
Emancipated Spectator. If redefining the role of audiences might seem daring at first, this
piece underscores the possibilities that can arise from this closer relationship – both for
artists and attendees. As the performance unfolds, there is no artists/audience separation
anymore. Individual choices shape the narrative, where participants can touch the scenery,
get closer to the acts and move freely in the performance sphere. Audience is allowed to become Hysteria.

00100ENSEMBLE breaks free from the standard seated audience model and challenges
attendees to use their senses to experience stories and productions individually. The
collective alerts that it is unlikely to see the whole show in one go. So – inevitabilly – as soon
as I leave the building, there is a question that echoes in my mind: If I took different choices,
would it be the same? I am sure it would not, but in a world where we struggle with too
many possibilities it feels good to remember the most valuable of them all: our instinct.

00100ENSEMBLE presents Hysteria until the 22nd of October. You can read more about the
show and buy tickets here.