Carnesky’s ghost train – blackpool

I missed this performance when it was in brick lain and was so excited to randomly come across it in Blackpool today. It is a piece of immersive performance art in the guise of a sea side attraction created to show the plight of trafficked women and refugees.

Firstly we were led into a darkened waiting room, we were the first in the room and until others joined us this was quite an oppressive experience. The dimmed lights and distant sound effects combined with the wind beating against the curtains was very unsettling and I seemed to loose track of time. Eventually we were joined by more ‘travelers’ and then met by the main character a mother looking for her lost daughters. At this point the mood changed from disturbing to amusing as we were greeted by a man in drag who reminded me somewhat of Richard o Brien. We were then led onto the train and the ride itself began.

There was a mixture of live action performance and sculpted models throughout. There was a repeated refrain of ‘we’re lost’ ‘help us’ and sometimes ‘don’t leave me’ these repeated phrases created an unsettling and mournful tone for the rest of the ride although there were moments of wit provided by the main character. The women were shown fulfilling the stereotypical professions of eastern European migrants such as fortune telling and sensual dancing.

The use of darkness with moments of dim lighting served to disorientate the viewer by making the space inside seem both endless and claustrophobic. The realization that we were traveling in endless circles was accompanied by the sense that this could go on for ever. I left the train wanting to know more of the stories of the other characters – why were they ghosts? what had happened to them? The back stories are provided by the website however one must be curious or at least aware of the purpose of the performance to look this up.

I had some awareness of the purpose of the ride prior to embarking on it however I am not sure that someone who did not know the purpose would leave with greater awareness of the plight of trafficked women. I think the over all atmosphere was very unsettling and a viewer might question why all of the ghosts were female but I am not certain there was enough clarity in terms of an obvious narrative.

The sea side setting was the perfect location for this art work because of the idea of people crossing borders and the presence of sea side lap dancing bars make this the sort of location where one can imagine a migrant might find themselves lost and oppressed. The work also fitted very well into the surroundings of Blackpool pleasure beach as it blended seamlessly into its surroundings allowing the audience to come across it unsuspectingly.

 

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