Shunt’s new show, The Boy Who Climbed Out of His Face is wildly inventive, and something that I found to be quite brilliant. However, I’m completely aware that this is the type of theatre that is going to be quite divisive when it comes to opinion, already demonstrated in The Stage’s luke-warm review, and the comments on Time Out’s review of the show. This is because it’s as far away from the traditional type of theatre, and far more unhinged and off-the-wall than other promenade experiences that have happened in London such as The Drowned Man and In The Beginning Was The End.
So if you’re a little undecided about whether to go or not, or simply want to know how to make the best of your visit then here are some tips from myself.
The walk from North Greenwich Underground station is quite straight forward, but it will take around 10 minutes minimum! So make sure you leave plenty of time to get there. However, don’t panic if you’re running a little late. Audience members for a booked time will be let in at several intervals within that half-hour. But still try to make it there on time as the last thing the show needs is people bottlenecking towards the end of each half hour slot: it’ll probably frustrate you a little too.
Dress the Part
1. Wrap up and keep dry.
Although the show takes place inside shipping containers, it’s not entirely inside them. Also, the pop-up food and bar area is uncovered which is where you’ll be held until you’re summoned into Shunt’s intense microcosm. So, as September draws on, remember that things can get a bit wet and chilly.
2. Wear small shoes.
You WILL be required to take off your shoes and socks to enter – no exceptions – and you’ll then be carrying them around with you in a shoe box. Therefore, I wouldn’t recommend boots, high heels, or platforms (!?) because it’s likely you’ll end up carrying two shoe boxes around with you (one per shoe) like I noticed some people did on the night I went. You don’t want to be distracted by cumbersome luggage as this may take away from your enjoyment.
It’s also an easy, but not short walk from North Greenwich station. So probably best to wear something comfortable so you don’t tire out those poor feet before even getting there.
3. Be clean.
You’re barefoot. For the comfort of other audience members, please ensure that you have clean odour-free feet.
Make a Night Of It
1. Try pie. Try.
The venue is not just about the show. It also has its own pop-up bar and food area. The food is certainly worth staying for. It’s reasonably priced with decent sized portions and is more than a little delicious! With the bar and food are open from 5pm – a full hour before the performances kick off – and after the last lot have been in, there’s no reason why you can’t catch a tasty bite.
Highly recommended is the pulled pork: spicy, sweet and succulent, it’s delicious but quite distinct from pulled pork you may have otherwise tasted. Also, be sure to try their homemade rum & raisin ice cream, laced with Kraken Rum. :Q_
2. Stay for the Entertainment
Whilst the show is obviously the main draw, The Jetty will also be putting on a programme of live music and other entertainment in their bar area throughout the duration of the run (schedule tba). So why not plan your evening to take in some of the other things they have to offer.
Remember, the O2 is also a short walk away, so if you could easy take in a film before or after, or even a gig if you time things properly.
The Boy Who Climbed out Of His Face: Official Trailer.
Enjoying the Show – Dos and Don’ts
1. DON’T expect a narrative. DO open yourself to the experience.
As mentioned in my review, whilst there is a definite sequence of events, there isn’t a narrative as such. So don’t expect to try and find one. Instead, open yourself to being whisked through areas of amazing detail and design, and don’t be afraid to get yourself emotionally stuck in this intense and multi-sensory journey. Try to think of it more like a piece of walk-through art. It might not make complete sense, but it’s a spectacle none the less.
This is not a traditional theatre experience. If you don’t like anything outside of traditional theatre experiences, stick to traditional theatre experiences. However, I would encourage everyone to expand their theatrical horizons should they have the time to, even if you end up hating this.
2. DON’T go if you’re scared of dark confined spaces, suffer from photo-sensitive epilepsy, have access needs, or are offended by male nudity.
You’re going to be inside shipping containers for 45 minutes, and some parts of it are quite dark and a little cramped. Several parts of the show also include total black outs. There are also some flashing lights, at points – although never strobe – so those who suffer from photo-sensitive epilepsy should seriously be aware that this could trigger their condition.
Unfortuantely, given the nature of the show and the fact that it’s inside shipping containers, it is completely inaccessible for theatre goers who use a wheelchair. For those who require assistance to get around, do be aware that it is not level and there are steps and obstacles throughout that you’ll be required to move through at a good speed.
As for male nudity, that’s your problem. Not Shunt’s.
3. DON’T be afraid to be afraid. But DO be brave and participate.
As I and Time Out have mentioned, there are parts of the show that are actually terrifying. So expect to be at least a little unnerved. But even so, there are points where you as an individual and/or as a group are singled out and/or left to your own devices. So go with a “can do” attitude and a willingness to put yourself out there, even if it is a little petrifying.
4. DO go with friends.
Relating to the point above, going with friends is actually a good idea here. Whilst for shows like The Drowned Man and In The Beginning Was the End audience members were encouraged to go off individually to explore and have an individual experience, there’s not really much scope to do that here. Therefore, find strength in numbers by a coercing a loved one or a couple of mates come along with you, especially if you want to go but feel you might get a little too scared to go solo.
However, do be prepared for the possibility that a member of your group might be split off from the rest at various points. But don’t worry, nothing horrifying will happen to you or them should that happen: this isn’t Sweeny Todd’s!
5. DO make use of the bar. DON’T turn up drunk.
You’re probably going to need a drink afterwards, but I’d also recommend you have one before. Dutch Courage would certainly help some of the more nervous patrons, but it’ll also hopefully loosen you up a bit a really get yourself stuck into the show and open your mind a little.
That said, I can’t imagine anything worse than going through the show intoxicated, or worse, arriving under the influence of narcotics. This is a supremely surreal, scary, and intense show that’s enough of a crazy trip as it is when sober. Arriving off-your-face will most likely make you freak out, not to mention become a pain and spoil the experience for the rest of the audience.
6. DO hang around at the last scene.
Even though the last scene is a bit of a let down compared to how much you’re built up before it, it’s pretty striking and beautiful. The loop for this scene is also around 15-minutes and is actually really relaxing and subdued as well as visually arresting. It’s a nice wind-down even if you could have done with a bit more of the main show itself.
The Boy Who Climbed Out Of His Face will run at The Jetty, London, SE10 0FL, from 14 August – 28 September 2014. Tickets are £10. To book, visit www.barbican.org.uk. For more information about Shunt and the production, visit www.shunt.co.uk.