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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.