For those of you who have not yet encountered the bizarre world of immersive theatre, a visit to Shunt’s latest production of The Boy Who Climbed Out Of His Face should offer a good introduction to this experimental and downright weird realm of dramatic art. Set on a jetty overlooking the Thames and the Emirates Cable Cars (may as well catch a ride while you’re at it, it’s only £3.50 and you’ll observe some spectacular views of the city), Shunt will take you on a journey like no other. You might not climb out of your face – but you’ll certainly feel like you’re off your face.
Before you enter the yellow room where a woman with a vibrating and seemingly dislocated jaw will inform you that you’ve gone the wrong way about fifty times, you’ll be asked / encouraged / forced to take your shoes off… so prepare accordingly and get the Scholl out the night before. You’ll carry your shoe box with you as you enter another box – a box of rave. A masked man will unleash your inner goblin and before you know it, you’ll be waving your box in the air, wishing you’d packed the glow sticks. There are a mix of winners and losers in this room. It’s not the winning, it’s the taking part that counts, so be prepared to lose, but, at some stage, glory will descent upon thee. And when it does, you’ll be escorted into a silent sauna via a forest. Sand will exfoliate your soles and toes as you peer behind trees, expecting to be set upon by all sorts of wild beasts. Someone will lose their bottle as they’re collecting their bottles… don’t expect to make friends, he’s a lonesome bush baby, and you’re there simply to take a lift elsewhere. That’s a literal lift. But one that doesn’t move. Nevertheless, the doors will open and you’ll bear witness to a blindfolded audience member (poor cow) being stroked by a woman with the most intense stare known to man. ‘I want to look at you’, she’ll sweetly sing into your ear as she moves onto her next victim. The waiflike creature will look into your eyes and, as the intensity increases, a piece of your soul will slither out – they’re slippery things, souls. If you’re not “chosen”, congratulations, you’ll get to make it out into the fresh air, where a bearded man in a blonde wig and a white dress will serenade you whilst standing on a cargo container overlooking a pool of dead babies. Oh and then he’ll get naked. But if you’re selected, you’ll become accustomed to the dark, and lose your friends while you’re at it.
Yes, it’s as trippy as it sounds.
Ok so, for a tenner, you may as well go along and spend half hour inside an acid junkie’s deluded mind. I mean, why not? If you like things that make sense, perhaps this isn’t for you (there’s no boy for starters; plenty of faces though). And if you’re one easily offended by the sight of dead babies, deformities and penises that waft in motion to the wind… either man up and get over it or stay at home. Or stick to Shunt’s bar.
As someone who has seen a fair amount of experimental, immersive, site-specific performance art, I can’t help feel a little disappointed. The space is incredible – a dramatist’s wet dream – but they didn’t do it justice in my book. There was room for a lot more “play” and they could have done so much more. It’s almost as though they’ve been a bit lazy about it; forsaking creativity by relying too heavily on the atmosphere of the venue. There’s certainly a vision (the sight of the dead babies will probably stay with me for some time, aka EVER), but it’s executed in a rather half-hearted way.
Saying that, you should go along anyway – it’s a cheap night out and it definitely offers something “different”. Plus the bar alone is well worth a visit regardless of whether you’re a theatre buff…
You can sip your glass of vino (£3.50 small, £7 large) as you wave “ahoy” to the pirate ships sailing by. Bar, boats and balminess. What better way to spend a summer’s evening?
No pics allowed… so catch the video here.