Tag Archives: promenade

Tips: The Boy Who Climbed Out Of His Face (The Jetty, London)

Shunt artwork - A5 RGB 72dpiShunt’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.

Getting There

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.

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/102237384]

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.

[youtube http://youtu.be/jsuvL1_XoLM]

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.

Review: The Boy Who Climbed Out Of His Face (The Jetty, London)

Shunt artwork - A5 RGB 72dpiRating: ****

In A Nutshell

A wildly experimental event that will push you senses, your courage, and your perceptions of theatre.


Renowned (and arguably infamous) “event” company, Shunt, take up a six week residency at new south London arts venture, The Jetty. This new show promises a wild multi-sensory 45 minute experience inside shipping containers, drawing influences from both Charles Kingsley’s The Water Babies and Joseph Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness.


With so much secrecy about the actual content of the containers (which I’ve been asked to keep) it’s difficult to say much about what happens inside them. However, if you think it near impossible to combine The Water Babies and The Heart of Darkness together, on account that these couldn’t be any more polemic to each other, you won’t be surprised to find that they don’t. Whilst there is a definite sequence of events inside the containers, if you go expecting a narrative in the traditional sense, you’ll only be left baffled and confused. However, if you go open to an experience, then you’ll get a lot more out of it than you would otherwise.

You genuinely have no idea about what is going to happen next as everything is supremely surreal and nonsensical. There are moments that are literally in your face, disorientating, or just downright creepy. These are made even more unnerving as there are moments where continuing on with the experience means that you, and your fellow audience members, must swallow your fears and press on to the next area; you may be singled out as an individual, or simply left to your own devices as a group in this strange and surreal landscape, with moving forwards being  your only option. Given just how bizarre and unsettling the events are, this is sometimes easier said than done.

The only major criticism is that the show is too short. 45 minutes fly by, and just when you’ve found you’ve steeled your courage enough to carry on deeper into Shunt’s twisted world, you find you’re at the end twitching for more. Furthermore, the climax is so subdued, although beautifully staged, that it feels like a big let down given everything that has been building up towards it. But at a humble £10, you definitely get your money’s worth, even if you’d like to stay longer or wanted a bit more from the event’s apex.

The Boy Who Climbed Out Of His Face: Official Trailer


With Shunt’s emphasis on senses and how their theatre can make you feel, it’s no surprise that the quality of production and attention to aesthetics is superlative. Everything from lighting, set, costume, and even optical illusions, all work in tight cooperation with every other component and is as essential as the last. It all works perfectly in unison to create a netherworld of madness that makes Alice’s trip through the looking glass seem like a stroll around Ikea.

Visually there are more than a couple of incredibly arresting visuals that become images that will really stick with you. This is set design at it’s most ambitious but also most artistic, with some scenes that are as high-quality and striking of those in large scale operas. There’s some particularly good use of lighting, sound, and video throughout, demonstrating that Shunt aren’t scared of experimenting with different mediums to create a truly unique world.

Most interesting is bringing the sense of touch to the fray. By asking all audience members to remove their shoes and their socks, what you feel with your feet is just as quintessential. But this is also a very clever experiment on forcing an audience out of their comfort zone by heightening how they perceive the world around them, and making them do something that you wouldn’t do anywhere else.


Whilst difficult to say much without giving much away, Shunt has an indefatigable cast that are as intense as the production itself. They make an effort to thrill and disturb as excellently as the rest of the show. But you also get the feeling that they’re willing to push themselves as performers in their roles as much as the production pushes the audience, making them as integral and as striking as any other part of this experiment.


If you want something unique and off-the-wall, then you’ll love this. If you want something more traditional, then you’ll probably loathe it. Go with an open mind (and possibly some Dutch courage) and experience one of the most exciting and different pieces of theatre that London has to offer. Short, contained, and intense, this is the sideshow reinvented for the 21st Century and Generation WTF. Terrifying and intoxicating, this is the stuff of both dreams and nightmares.

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.

Review: Alice Through The Looking Glass (St. Paul’s Church Covent Garden, London)

Alice 1Rating: *****

In A Nutshell:

Electric, inventive, and mad-cap, this is a family show that has as much narrative style and substance as it does outrageous fun.


Continuing on from the success of their production of Alice in Wonderland last year, Iris Theatre returns to Lewis Carroll by adapting his topsy-turvy sequel. Alice catches a glimpse of her older and frailer self through a looking glass. In order to try and make elderly Alice remember who she is, she bangs a little too hard on the mirror and both of their worlds are sucked into each other. In order to save her older self for the notorious Jabberwocky, she must traverse towards rank eight of this giant chess-board world to defeat it.


Writer and Artistic Director, Daniel Winder, adapts Carroll’s book with a great deal of intelligence. Most interestingly, he uses a framing device of Alice on the quest to save her older self: something that is not part of the original novel. What this illustrates is that Winder knows Carroll more than most. In execution, it gives the narrative a drive and purpose other than becoming non-sequential nonsense that an adaptation could have easily been. But it also means that, despite being a family friendly show, it gives it real substance that makes it work as equally as fantastic as an adult piece of theatre.

This framing device, despite adding to the text, is actually quite organic and relevant. Taking into account darker themes from episodes such as the White Knight’s song and the encounter with the Wasp in a Wig, Winder embraces the fact that there are definite allusions to Carroll lamenting a lost and happy youth: subsequently, a widely accepted interpretation of Carroll’s earlier related work, The Hunting of the Snark. The result is an adaptation that is as engaging as it is electric. The frolics, fun, and nonsense are superb, but empathetically dwelling on the tender melancholy that is inherent in the text gives it that extra edge, making it more than a juvenile affair.

The only negative is that it does drag a little in the second act, especially in the more verbose scenes such as that with Humpty Dumpty. This is mainly because of the original book itself is lengthy, but also because Winder et al had set a pace in Act I that was always going to be difficult to keep up with. But given everything else that’s amazing about this production, it really is a trivial criticism.

Music and Songs

Although not a musical per se, there are plenty of songs throughout. Candida Caldicot creates a score that captures the anarchy and wonder of Carroll’s world. With this, the songs themselves are fun, simple, and catchy, making them especially suitable for children but immensely enjoyable for adults. Caldicot can also pen a ditty that has as much heart and emotion, where needed, to bolster Winder’s emotive vision. She also isn’t afraid to experiment, using vocal and musical effects at points to create atmosphere and tension, such as in the Jabberwocky’s lair, to great effect.


There is so much I can laud here, I’m not sure where to start! Ultimately, Tara Finney’s large team of set, lighting and sound designers, builders, and movement directors manage to transport you to Wonderland effortlessly. Using only a fairly minimum bits of set and props – such as fairy lights, and various landscaping features – the several performance areas are decked out to create enough whimsy to prompt audience members on their own journey of imagination. But what’s tremendous is tenacity and inventiveness of Finney’s team, finding surprising things to take advantage of that are already existing within St. Paul’s church and its grounds, adding extra and unexpected oomph . One example is using a low chord on the church’s own organ when entering the lair of the Jabberwocky. This could have easily been done using pre-recorded sound on their excellent AV equipment. But by doing this instead, the audience also get to feel the physical rumble of this domineering instrument, making it particularly exciting and scary.

But there’s also a very high-end professionalism here too. There are some moments that are as aesthetically arresting as those you’d find on a West End stage. For example, older Alice’s bed chamber is breathtaking when you enter, with it’s larger than life tilted bed engulfed in the vast Edwardian church space. There’s also a wonderful moment the Wasp in a Wig teeters off, holding high the golden comb given to her by Alice, making it glint in the spotlight and casting an imposing shadow as she exits. These touches edmonstrate that this isn’t just a lets-have-a-laugh-and-cobble-together-an-outdoor-promenade-production, but that Iris Theatre to be as professional outfit as anything else in the West End, if not better than some of the productions currently on in the theatres.

Director Jamie Jackson also ensures a solid balance in this being a promenade production, making sure the audience are never spending too long or too quick a time in any place. But he also understands how effective interaction can be and is never scared to directly involve the audience. There are plenty of moments when the audience are involved, either as individuals dressing up Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee, or merely being squirted by water pistols from afar. He’s also not afraid of being inventive within this family friendly context, accommodating some of Isla Jackson-Ritchie’s bold pieces of physical theatre to great affect. Thus, he’s as integral a contribution to the show as Winder, Caldicot, and Finney, all seeming working as one to pull of this tremendous show.


I absolutely can’t bring myself to single out particular cast members here: they’re all as accomplished and as brilliant as each other. This is a cast that not only know how to act, but know how to have outrageous fun. They all throw themselves into their roles with brilliant aplomb, creating exuberant and engrossingly charismatic characters. They portray Carroll’s over-the-top personalities by wallowing in his nonsense as if it were gospel. But this is far from pantomime, and behind these outlandish characterisations there’s are passionate, creative, and mindful interpretations of the characters. Contrariwise, during Winder’s more touching moments, the actors treat their characters with a tact and subtlety as if a soft tragedy. Each player is the life and soul of whatever party they are at, and it’s a joy to see a cast as jubilant and having as much fun as the audience.


Wild, riotous, and magical. This is one of the best pieces of summer theatre you could ask for. Even though it’s a family friendly production, there’s nothing here that will make adults feel left out or patronised as there’s a real sense of substance and intelligence among the madness and frivolity. It’s a production that makes you want the summer to never end, just so Iris Theatre can keep producing gems like this. An absolute masterpiece.

Alice Through The Looking Glass plays at St. Paul’s Church Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9ED, until 30 August 2014. Tickets are £17.99 (concessions available). To book, visit www.iristheatre.com.

News: Shunt Announces New Show “The Boy Who Climbed Out Of His Face”

Shunt artwork - A5 RGB 72dpiCelebrated theatre company, Shunt, who are renowned for their large-scale site-specific theatrical experiences, will be blasting the shrink-wrap off a new summer performance venue in North Greenwich, with new show The Boy Who Climbed Out Of His Face.

Situated on an old coaling jetty elevated above the river Thames near the O2 Arena, Shunt, in their first ever outdoor production, will usher willing audience members through a disorientating and multi-sensory experience inside a cluster of shipping containers. Their previous fully-immersive theatre pieces, such as The Architects and Money, has won them fame and acclaim time and time again, and The Boy Who Climbed Out Of His Face looks to continue their track record of thrilling and bold events.

Unsurprisingly, Shunt are being scintillating coy about what the show is about, only letting on that it will draw inspiration from Charles Kingsley’s The Water Babies and Jospeh Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness. Furthermore, their freshly released trailer (below) is surreally enigmatic, prompting more questions than answers. The only other things we know is that audience members will be required to remove their socks and shoes to go barefoot through the experience, and that – and I quote:

“Every 10 minutes 30 people will disappear into a shipping container and are spat out 45 minutes later.”

If you’re not feeling that brave, there will also be a pop-up bar and food venue, so you can keep yourself occupied whilst you assume your friends will join you later for a much needed drink.

Tickets are £10, which is incredibly affordable. So given the bargain price and Shunt’s reputation, I would highly suggest booking asap as it’s likely to sell out quickly given the strictly limited six week run.

See you on the other side!

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.