Review: 4**** The Silhouette in the Smoke – London Museum of Water and Steam – @Immer_City @waterandsteam

#Tweetingit: 4**** ImmerCity wring every drop of suspense from their unusual venue with great performances

Directed and produced by Rosanna Mallinson, ImmerCity’s immersive theatre experience takes place in the industrially foreboding setting of the London Museum of Water and Steam. cake-silhouette-1200x845-optimised.jpgArmed with nothing but torches and coats, groups of six are set loose in the museum to watch arguments, interview suspects and hopefully, with a bit of luck, crack the case of the unfortunate death of a young boy, long ago in a Victorian pumphouse.

The evening begins with an introduction from our host, Jack Daw (played with great enthusiasm by Ben Hale), a paranormal investigator apparently hired by the museum to investigate the unusual noises heard recently around one particular machine. As is standard paranormal procedure, he has recruited the audience members to help him with this, and like the good host he is he starts by providing a Victorian High Tea.

Unfortunately, the first part of the evening is slightly underwhelming but I think I half expected a full high tea which actually, is not how it is advertised – so for anyone thinking this, it is not the case.  The trays of sandwiches and cakes are unlikely to impress anyone expecting a treat, although as they are included in the very reasonably priced admission it might be unfair to expect more. The audience are then invited to learn a little about both the characters of the evening and their own teams, as smaller groups are brought together into sixes.

The evening proper is broken into three distinct sections. First, the six members of a team each choose a character to follow as they relive that fateful day, meaning that each audience member knows only part of the full story. After meeting to trade information and begin crafting their theories, the second section involves each group cross-examining the characters separately, hoping to get them to reveal some hidden motive. YA380481-1200x615-optimisedThis is the most interactive part of the evening, as the audience not only have to question the characters but find themselves having to claim to be various acquaintances. This reviewer, for example, found himself frantically having to think of a reason why he had not met one of the characters before, despite claiming to be an old friend of the family. Another member of the group was a little too forward in questioning a character’s intentions and was subsequently yelled at until he walked away, leaving the rest of the group to play good cop and continue the questioning. Most people will surely enjoy playing detective and, as the six characters are interviewed separately, there is plenty of opportunity to try out different tactics. The third section is, of course, the confession, when the truth behind the events of that day is revealed.

The choice of venue proves to be inspired, as the dark corridors and strange machinery make the setting appear larger and more labyrinthine than could be expected of what is, during the day, a functioning museum. The tight corridors and view-restricting pipes all contribute to the tension as the actors slowly arrive at the same fateful location and the grisly crescendo builds. A coat is definitely recommended, however, as it can get quite cold, and unfortunately, the venue makes no attempt to be wheelchair accessible. Like all the best murder mysteries, the characters are the highlight of the unfolding mystery.

The acting is uniformly excellent, although certain actors stand out as particularly impressive. ladies-on-stairs-800x1200-optimisedEdmund Attril, as the pompous pumphouse superintendent, is clearly having a wonderful time channelling Basil Fawlty and bringing some light relief to what can otherwise be a quite sinister evening. Debbie Bird brings gravitas to her role as a grieving widow visiting on behalf of the local orphanage.But the most impressive performance was surely Bethan Leyshon as the widow’s companion, quite overwhelmed by the horror of the grisly events and managing to stay in character and largely in tears during a long cross-examination that must be a genuine ordeal for a performer.

ImmerCity will be bringing the show back in October for Halloween, apparently with the audience invited to dress in their best Victorian outfits. – something which this reviewer would heartily recommend attending.

Show runs until 29th March and reopens on 16th October 2018. 


Published by Playhouse Pickings

Theatre blog run by Rhiannon; a civil servant, D&D player, sci fi fan, immersive theatre lover and gin enthusiast

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