Review: The Feelgood Institute

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Dr Leon: Neural Enhancement

Title: The Feelgood Institute
Style: A collection of immersive and multisensory experiences
Where: 183-185 Union Street, London SE1 0LN
When: 12–7pm, Wednesday–Sunday, 8th June–1st July
To Note: Will need to climb stairs. Some installations use flashing lights

Rating: 3/5

The Feelgood Institute really lives up to its name. While in terms of production values, as theatre it’s a little cheap and cheerful (we were literally building things from rubbish at one point), the commitment to character and the experience were just as present as they are in bigger, glitzier shows.

The installations included a tribute to the glory days of acid house, an incredibly chilled light installation and a strange fountain where they gave me wormwood to drink. Note to self – wormwood is disgusting.

The two key immersive pieces were Dr Leon: Neural Enhancement and The Society of Nice.

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The former consists of being taken through a mock surgery, from waiting-room form-filling, to being strapped to a chair, to the aftercare. The idea is that they are implanting a chip in your brain to either improve your love, power or knowledge. I went for power – don’t laugh!

Of course, you know it’s all a bit of play-acting, but there were some interesting neuro-linguistic programming techniques as well as a good dollop of mindfulness involved, so despite the fact there’s nothing new in my brain, I did come out of the experience feeling not just good, but “Better”.

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The second immersive experience was the Society of Nice. A bizarre cross between immersive theatre and playgroup,  this experience was, well, nice. Fuelled largely by puns and silliness, the performers kept the conceit going nicely despite a set literally made from cardboard boxes and hats.

The Society inducts each participant as a new Agent of Nice,  and the general aim again seemed quite mindful. Once we were fully inducted and signed on, we made a wish for ourselves and set it free into the world, while at the same time being given a nice mission to complete.

Neither of these were installations that were going to shatter anyone’s world. They didn’t give me the goosebumps of a Gatsby or Then She Fell or challenge me like For King and Country. But they were a bloody nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon. And you can’t say fairer than that.

The Feelgood Institute was part of the Merge Festival and ran during June 2018. 

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