Saturday, October 4, 2014

Shunt, 23rd September

I wasn’t quick enough to go to Shunt when they had their permanent home under the arches of London Bridge before they were removed to make way for Crossrail (I presume). But they didn’t stop creating and I have been to several of either Shunt’s or one of Shunt’s contributor's shows since. No two are the same, and I have read interviews which say they start off with an loose idea but then they let the space they acquire influence them until the finished product can be quite different to what they’d first roughly envisaged.

So, after Electric Hotel, a play taking place in different rooms of a hotel with a soundtrack listened to via personal headphones, but no words, and The Architects, a slightly sinister voyage aboard a 'ship', they recently popped up at the newly formed The Jetty, a part of North Greenwich’s attempt to appear cool to the people who have bought or who may buy a property in the new ‘Greenwich Pier’ development.

The Jetty itself was pretty cool – sitting right on the water they had a bar, a shack serving whitebait, fish and chips, meat sandwiches and some amazing triple-cooked chips. All very reasonably priced too. You could easily come along just to hang out here, especially with the hammocks and live music they had lined up every night.

But it was also doubling up as a pre- and post-theatre lobby. Once you had your group number allocated, you awaited to be summoned, and then you all trooped into a shipping container and entered the world of The Boy who Climbed out of His Face. 

What was it all about? Well, that’s hard to pin down and everyone will have their own ideas once venturing through. For my group, feelings of abduction or smuggling and shipwreck on strange islands came to mind. There was one scene with someone who’d apparently gone mad, alone on his island that felt very reminiscent of ‘Lost’ (the TV show). They had no intention of making you feel comfortable and if darkness or close spaces, or close spaces in darkness gives you the willies, you would have hated this. It perhaps relied a little too much on darkness giving people the heebie jeebies, but in all I found it a fun, effective piece of theatre(?). Highlights included going down a hallway that shrank as you went up it, a la Willy Wonka, and sitting in a room, feeling like you were being transported, to enter into a mini-jungle, complete with wooden bridge to clamber across.

As with a lot of immersive performance, you get out what you put in. You could just be sitting in a shipping container in the dark. Or, you could be swept up with the noise and allow yourself to imagine that slowly, one by one, your comrades were disappearing as you sat there – what was happening in this dark? What sight would await you when – or if – the lights ever came back on? In this way is atmosphere made.

It wasn't a full production as such, being only 45 minutes, but it was also only a tenner. If they have more of this up their sleeves, I'd be satisfied.

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