Things To Do

Jason Allen 09/05/23


Please, when reading about BitterSuite, try to keep an open mind.

Because it’s one of those experiences that, on the face of it, sounds slightly bizarre and maybe even a little trite. After all, they describe themselves with words like ‘immersive’ and ‘multi-sensory’ which, as words go, have pretty much lost all meaning at this point.

But the point is that this really is immersive, and it really is multi-sensory. And by most accounts, it’s overwhelmingly good.

It’s hitting the Southbank Centre this June, and the idea is quite ambitious: to take a classical concert, and give each audience member the experience of synaesthesia. That’s a neurological condition in which senses find themselves crossing over at random, and thus numbers have colours, images have smells, and sounds have physical feelings. That kind of thing. So when they say mutli-senseory, that’s precisely what they mean.

So how do they pull this off? Well, first off, they audience is divided up into ‘Witnesses’ and ‘Experiencers’, depending on what ticket you got. The latter are paired up with a one-on-one performer (usually a dancer) who will act as their guide throughout the performance. First, they’ll blindfold you, then the music will begin. You’ll be taken through the concert space, and they’ll release scents beneath your nose, feed you with interesting tidbits of flavour, tap rhythms on your skin, dance with you, and more, all to mark moments in the music, and pull you deeper into it. You’ll hear violins played inches from your ears and feel the thrum of the bass notes in your chest. It’s truly active listening done in a way you’ve never seen before.


From a previous concert

The whole operation was started about a decade ago by Londoner Stephanie Singer, who debuted the experience in the Shoreditch’s Rich Mix. Since then, it’s gone onto venues like the Royal Opera House, the Brooklyn Academy of Arts, the Finnish National Opera House, and more. For each show, they recruit a local team of dancers, musicians, psychologists, chefs and perfumers, and get them to delve into the chosen piece of music, and apply their specialist field to it.

The show taking place in the Southbank will revolve around music from Christine and the Queens, who are curating this year’s Meltdown Festival (which this show happens to be part of). Thus you’ll get a score divided into four movements that are based on the band’s standout singles ‘To Be Honest’, and ‘Tilted’. And if you don’t fancy being blindfolded and thrown into the immersive deep-end? Then you can be a ‘Witness’, and simply watch the perforce absolutely free.

Whatever the case… it’s going to be a BitterSuite symphony.


NOTE: BitterSuite’s shows are taking place on the 11th, 12th, 14th, and 18th of June 2023 at the Clore Ballroom in the Southbank Centre. Each experience is roughly 30mins. Ticket for the Witnesses are free (and will be released at a later date) and ticket for the Experiencers cost £16.50 and are available right here.

Southbank Centre | Belvedere Road, SE1 8XX

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Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, Southbank, South London, SE1 8XX