The Salon Project: Anticipation

The Salon Project was the most interesting performance I’ve experienced in years. It had about as much to do with traditional theater as parkour does with ballet.

Maverick, enticing and entirely topsy-turvy, the evening was devised to explore and interpret the Parisian Salon culture of the late 19th & early 20th Centuries.

Learned, liberal folk would sit in lavish drawing rooms hearing musicians, expounding philosophers and great writers. Mingling and mixing with intelligentsia  and socialites. A cluster of ideas gathering mass and momentum. The whole affair puts me in mind of Forester novels and a young Helena Bonham Carter: bohemian, intellectual, critical and above all stimulating.

The Salon Project was an installation work from the minds behind Untitled Projects. Dreamt up by Stewart Laing, it aimed to recreate one of these salons for the modern guest.

A formal host, guest speakers, performances and artworks were staged as “provocations”. The audience’s participation in the Salon was paramount; discussion and interaction were to be the crux and purpose of the evening. Rather like an elaborate and elegant cocktail party.

The real icing on the cake however (and I shamelessly admit the reason I coughed up £25 for a ticket), was the promise of period garb. To attend a salon of 1912 one really must be dressed like a lady from 1912.

After booking a ticket all your measurements must be provided (a feat for which they handily supplied instructional videos), and the 100-strong crew had one month to source a fitted, period ensemble for each guest. Most were begged, borrowed and hopefully not stolen from theaters all around the country.


In the weeks leading up to the performance Stewart Laing’s eclectic and enticing conceptual blog treated viewers to the images and ideas that would eventually coalesce in Traverse One. Browsing through the scrapbook of period details and couture he’d collected encouraged frothy daydreams of tulled ball gowns and opera gloves.

After weeks of slowly mounting excitement the day had finally arrived and my giddiness could not be contained.

This group portrait is from a previous performance,  a taste of what’s to come.  Read the rest of my journey here and here.

Note: images in this post are wholly owned by the production.

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