What's On: I Do at Hilton Docklands, a wedding day drama played out in hotel rooms

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WHAT'S ON

By Lucia Blash

The ceremony begins in 10 minutes. The Best Man is practising his last-minute speech. The bridesmaids are squeezing the bride into her dress. 

Mum and Dad are seeing each other for the first time in years. Grandma is dressing her husband while the groom's brother is getting frisky with the maid of honour. Meanwhile, the groom is frozen.

Sound familiar - like an identikit of an everyday contemporary family wedding?

There's a twist. You are invited to gate-crash this particular Big Day - and to witness the intimate moments of a wedding party 10 minutes before a couple says those life changing words, "I do".

I Do, presented by Dante Or Die, is a funny and moving exploration of life seen through the lens of a wedding.

Staged in six different rooms at the Hilton Docklands hotel audiences are divided into groups and taken to see each vignette, in different order, to discover how the twists and turns within the story unravel. 

Moving from one room to another, the audience pieces together a picture of the day, with each group leaving the show with a slightly different perspective.

This observational site-specific performance is the brainchild of Dante or Die co-artistic directors Daphna Attias and Terry O'Donovan, with words by award-winning playwright Chloe Moss. The company is renowned for creating site-sensitive productions that take audiences on unpredictable and surprising journeys.

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Daphna said: "The impulse to make the work was from our own take on marriage.
"I chose to not get married and have a family without the big white dress and ceremony and Terry felt it was very important for him to marry his boyfriend in order to bring their families together and accept their relationship."

The pair researched the idea over a year, interviewing people about the reasons they got married or didn't and working with a group of actors from different backgrounds and age groups to develop the piece.

"We read a lot of bridal magazines and best men speeches, too!" added Daphna.

The production is staged at the Hilton Docklands, the six pre-wedding stories played out simultaneously in different hotel rooms. Like a fly on the wall, the audience - seated on a dressing table chair or on the end of a bed or standing in front of a wardrobe - observes at close quarter the build-up to the big moment.

It's a difficult task - not only for the actors who have to dodge around the audience as if they are not there - but also for the viewers.

"The difficulties of staging a site specific performance are that some elements completely change from one performance to another," said Daphna.

"Also, some audiences are intimidated by the intimacy and the proximity of the performers. It is important to set the rules at the start so the audience can relax in an unfamiliar environment. Obviously, we want the audience to have an enjoyable experience."

And what does Daphna want the audience to take away from the piece?

"I want the audience to think about marriage and weddings and the meaning of it today. What has changed in our attitude to marriage? Why are some people obsessed with that one day and what is the real meaning of committing to a partner to life?"

Until Mar 2, Mar 5-9, Hilton Docklands, 265 Rotherhithe Street, SE16 5HW, £20/£15 7pm & 9.15pm, almeida.co.uk/event/ido or danteordie.com.

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