Storefront City London

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London, Underground

vaults2WHAT: London, Underground
WHEN: February 28 & March 1, 2014 (10:30pm-3am)
WHERE: The Vaults, Waterloo (Leake Street, SE1 7NN)
WHO: The nabokov Arts Club
PRICE: £15 (Advance) – £18 (Door)

OUR RATING: Do It!

vaults1

Welcome to VAULT, a six week festival of arts and entertainment (Jan 28 – Mar 8) produced by the Heritage Arts Company in the labyrinth of tunnels and caverns underneath Waterloo Station. And then there’s Vault LATES, late night events Thu-Sat that vary anywhere from silent discos to burlesque debauchery and even some Mardi Gras celebrations.

Storefront City helped The nabokov Arts Club celebrate their 5th Birthday at VAULT Festival last night at London, Underground, a two-night extravaganza of live art. You can celebrate too if you get down underground tonight beneath Waterloo Station. It’s time to explore!

Adam: Lights string into the depths of the passageways that make up the vast edifice which is The Vaults. Striking out into the the chaotic milieu of plays, live music and revellers, its easy to get lost in the fantasy world beneath the concrete of London’s streets. Alternative, yet not threatening, London, Underground provided a veritable playground for the artistic spirit within all of us. The heads of Guardsmen with neon skin tones give you a royal honour guard whenever you walk the main hall, whilst innumerable clouds waft overhead in The Light Bar. Smaller venue alcoves line the tunnel, so go ahead and take your pick!

2014-03-01 01.13.27Starting with “The Pit”, the first alcove to your left upon entry, I was delighted to be treated to two plays. First up was Plums by Luke Barnes, which brings you the story of two lovers whose hidden secrets are both touching and disturbing. This was followed up by This Isn’t A Thing, Right by Lolly Jones, a tale of sexual comfortability, longing and luck. While very well received by the audience (Lolly Jones is currently a viral video star), I didn’t connect with the piece as well as I would have liked.

Unfortunately, we missed the headline act, 3RUN vs Bellatrix, an immersive free running and beatbox experience, which was very disappointing. This is due mainly to signage within The Vaults, which was few and far between, with Storefront City only discovering the small runsheet once the headline performance was over. Perhaps this is in keeping with The Vaults eclectic and immersive styling, but further signage and direction in future would be helpful.

King Porter Stomp

King Porter Stomp

Alicia: Live theatre, music, cabaret, comedy, poetry and visual art explode underground, all mashed together in an extreme balance of intimate performance and all-out party. If you don’t feel like sitting down and watching one of the many live performances and instead want to take advantage of a wild and crazy weekend night, enter The Light Bar for all your live music needs. Earlier on in the night you can get low with Dizraeli & Downlow’s hip-hop set, or later you can experience live funk, ska, dub and hip hop from King Porter Stomp, an 8 piece blend of horns, heavy bass and lyrics. As the night goes on and the party gets kicking, the whole venue sets its sights on the last act of the night, a DJ set by the Mystery Jets.

Yet the highlight of the night was Symphony, a collaboration with new writing company nabokov and playwrights Ella Hickson, Nick Payne and Tom Wells, which has been playing in The Vaults since Feb 18. Theatre meets live gig in The Cage with 3 short plays, a mix of stories told through music and spoken word, directed by Joe Murphy with music by Ed Gaughan, and with amazingly talented performances by Remy Beasley, Jack Brown, Iddon Jones and Adam Sopp.

Symphony

Symphony

The format is unique, yet inviting, with the audience ushered into a room of musicians. But when the door closes behind you, the simple gig transforms a fusion of plays and songs, an electric synthesis of mediums that mimics the varied talents and fluctuating roles of the four performers. We were drawn into all three of their pieces on the night (one of the reasons we missed out on 3RUN  and Bellatrix), including Jonesy by Tom Wells (a tumultuous and hilarious vignette of an asthmatic teenage boy in P.E.), A Love Song for the People of London by Ella Hickson (a tale of unrequited love and awkward meetings on public transport) and My Thoughts On Leaving You by Nick Payne (a story of relationships and mistakes, with the requisite amount of alcoholic declarations of love, sombreros and bathroom stall hookups). If I wouldn’t have known the background to the performance, I would have assumed this quartet had always been an ensemble and that the pieces were all created by them. The sets were amazingly cohesive, and the performances both charming and intoxicating.

Final Thoughts: Awesome venue? Check! Live arts? Check! Fantastic night? Double Check! London, Underground is just the kind of event the city needs more of, so get there before it closes so you can be part of the experience.

P.S. Can’t make London, Underground? Or perhaps the ticket price is a little steep for you? Not to worry! Tickets to other shows are as little as £7.50, and you can even stop by Tuesday and Wednesday nights for free live music and comedy.

Hidden Show: The Good Neighbour

WHAT: Hidden Show: The Good Neighbour
WHEN: December 6 – January 4, 2013/2014
WHERE: Battersea Arts Centre (Lavender Hill, SW11 5TN)
RUNTIME: 135 to 160 minutes (no intermission)

WHO: Battersea Arts Centre
PRICE: £12-19.50

OUR RATING: Chance It!

Put on your thinking cap and channel your inner Sherlock with Battersea Arts Centre’s Hidden Show: The Good Neighbour. Complete with mystery and magic, this immersive theatre adventure impels you to delve into curious mysteries and discover fantastical characters, leaving audiences inspired, awed and heart-warmed.

Credit: BAC

Credit: BAC

Alicia: The Good Neighbour is a parent’s daydream. BAC offers audiences two choices of adventure, one being geared toward families with young children (6+), and the other specifically for audiences without the little ones who want an adventure just for themselves (14+; specifically entitled The Hidden Show: The Good Neighbour). All groups (led by an actor) are trying to solve the same mystery, but the groups diverge every now and again, with special stories catering to their specific audiences. Inspired by the historic 1909 fire at the Clapham Junction department store Arding and

Hobbs, audiences explore and investigate the mystery of George Neighbour, who has lost his memory and needs his fellow explorers to delve into the hidden chambers of BAC to search its history and find the pieces of his life’s puzzle.

Photo by James Allen

Photo by James Allen

It was quite lovely to sit in a room full of excited families, ready and willing to solve this great mystery. Yet, being part of the adult show, our group was separated from nine other children’s groups, sometimes being sole adventurers and sometimes running into the other groups and sharing beautiful experiences with them. One of the best moments of these shared experiences was in the

Momentorium, a room full of moments and memories, of bright light and the slow dripping of water. A momentologist had just finished showing us the film of a person’s memories, a home video full of illumination, laughter and family. As the momentologist was about to show another home video full of another person’s loving moments in life, a young boy, approximately six years old, said, “That was beautiful. I think this one’s going to be beautiful too.” I swear to you, the most magical moment of the whole night. Despite being part of the more adult group at times, I was thankful to have experienced moments with these developing minds, and to witness the imagination and inspiration flooding forth.

Photo by James Allan

Photo by James Allan

Our group traversed the entirety of the arts centre, knocking on hidden doors, crawling through passages and even discovering trap doors and hidden momentos. At times, I really did feel like Alice delving into the curiosities of Wonderland, finding hidden messages on blank pieces of paper, talking with lightbulbs and watching the dreams of a Japanese bee. Other great moments were being ogled at by patrons of the BAC who were just minding their own business in the cafe or sitting room, and who were suddenly interrupted by our intrusive investigative team on a rampage for answers.

Photo by James Allan

Photo by James Allan

Adam: Beautifully orchestrated and imaginatively conceived, Hidden Show: The Good Neighbour takes around 10% of the audience on a more adult, behind-the-scenes tour of the children’s version, which runs side-by-side. Immersive theatre has had a massive boost recently, with the acceptance of Punchdrunk as mainstream and audiences clamouring for all-surrounding sensational experiences to take them away from the daily grind. In this respect, Hidden Show: The Good Neighbour is successful, but mainly for children.

Photo by James Allan

Photo by James Allan

Why do I say this? Because in order for such immersive experiences to be successful, one must feel thrust wholly into it believably – and being talked down to doesn’t achieve this. Honestly, I’m being too harsh as I really enjoyed the overall experience. I played to them, allowing myself to be immersed (or was I forcing myself?). This allowed me to get a lot out of it, but I would guess others in my group would have discovered less wonder than I.

In fact, at one moment, I was allowed to lead the group to the next scene by reading the instruction on a clue. Luckily, I took this seriously and spoke up, allowing everyone to hear – which cannot be said for the other leaders who got us hopelessly lost. Again, one needs to want to be involved, which was not the case for the other leaders.

Photo by James Allan

Photo by James Allan

The world created inside BAC is exciting and interesting, but doesn’t have the majesty of other immersive shows I’ve experienced. I was also highly suggest that the actors vary their performances dependent on the age of their audience: there’s nothing worse than being spoken to as if one were on Wizadora. If you have children this will be a treat, but otherwise only go if you have an imagination!

Final Thoughts: Families with young ones will find this an amazing explorative adventure full of wonder and delight. Meanwhile, adventurers sans-kids might want to reconsider this forey.

P.S.: For more great kids’ theatre, why not check out The Silent Language at Storefront City Chicago.

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