Last week Civilised Mess provided an interactive theatrical experience for Cath Kidston. In keeping with their new campaign ‘Do you like yours #totesbig or #totessmall?’ we provided individual ‘Bag Readings’ for customers as part of their launch event in Cath Kidston’s flagship store on Piccadilly.
The campaign revolved around the company’s new ‘Tote Bag’, which comes in two sizes: #totesbig or #totessmall, where customers are encouraged to share their prefered size online. The event included polaroid photographs of the contents of customers handbags, an ‘illusion room’ where customers could take comical photographs and a plinth where customers could empty their bags, take a photo of its contents and enter the competition to win one of the new bags.
Our part, the ‘Bag Readings’ was a short one-on-one immersive theatre experience for customers, allowing us to read their fortunes via the contents of their handbags. To prepare for this we researched fortune telling, palm reading and tarot card reading, then developed a script of what the contents of someones handbag could mean in the context of the performance. The aim of the experience was purely fun, not to be taken seriously but to brighten up peoples day with a touch of humour and to allow customers to potentially learn something about themselves. However, the depth of the response was greater than we imagined. It turned out that reading handbags was, in a lot of cases, fairly accurate. We read childrens pink floral bags, elderly ladies clutches, young professionals sleek designer bags and mothers well loved, yet battered, purses.
From makeup to snacks, photos of loved ones to quirky and exotic keyrings it turned out that whether you think it or not your bag does say a lot about you. They show where a lot of our priorities lie, what we value in our possessions and how sentimental we are. They can contrast to the rest of our style or complement it, they can be packed full of everything but the kitchen sink or they can be minimal and meticulously well packed with each object in its place, even down to the way we hold our bags: on our back, in our hand or tightly and securely held across our bodies.
The overall experience was eye opening and, in fact, quite beautiful to take in as performers and theatre makers. It wasn’t just a gimmick, it was a little girls handbag full of loom bands she was making for all her family, or an elderly Indian woman being proud to tell our performers the story of her religious guru whose photo she carries with her at all times. It was a way to be brought together as women; when something as simple as a handbag can hold so many stories.
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