Posts Tagged ‘Shunt’

The Roof

Another day, another headphone show. The second of my LIFT 2014 trio. Innovative company Fuel, the man behind Shunt and designer Jon Bausor. Very excited.

Doon Street Car Park, behind the NT, has acquired a compound in which you stand on gravel wearing your headphones. Elevated all around you are rooftops and two ‘rooms’. It’s a live video game. It starts slowly, but speeds up a bit – but only a bit, and its the slowness that’s the heart of the problem.

Player 611 runs around avoiding or shooting monsters, getting ‘prizes’ & popping into the smaller room which is, in turn, a radio staton, pharmacy, infirmary etc. When he completes a level, there’s some sort of ‘show’ in the larger room.

There’s music playing in your headphones and occasionally disorientating sounds that make you look over your shoulder . You’re forever turning around to follow the action. I became uncomfortable, then I got irritated, then I got bored. It’s only an hour but it doesn’t sustain its length. It was original, clever, technically accomplished and the performances were good – but it was slow and dull too, I’m afraid.

Maybe it means more if you are a video gamester?

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My review of 2012 takes the form of nine awards. There are none for performances as I find it impossible to choose and invidious to select from so much amazing talent. Here goes:

THEATRICAL EVENT OF THE YEAR – The Olympic Games Opening Ceremony, showing the world Britain at its theatrical best, and Globe to Globe, inviting the world to perform its greatest playwright on his ‘home stage’ – both once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Honourable mention to the The Bomb at the Tricycle, the latest in their deeply rewarding reviews of history, world events and global issues.

MOST EXCITING EVENING OF THE YEAR (or possibly my life!) – You Me Bum Bum Train, the most extraordinary adrenalin rush as you perform in 13 scenes from conducting an orchestra to operating a digger, travelling between them through pipes, holes & chutes.

SOLO SHOW – Mark Thomas’ autobiographical Bravo Figaro, funny and moving in equal measure.

BEST OUTSIDE LONDON – National Theatre of Wales’ CoriolanUs in an aircraft hanger at RAF St. Athan; the other highlight of the World Shakespeare Festival, part of the Cultural Olympiad. Wonderful Town is worthy of mention as the touring musical that really should have come to the West End.

NEW PLAYThis House at the Cottesloe, a play about British politics from 1974 to 1979 that was more enlightening than living through it (by a man who is too young to have lived through it), yet entertaining and funny. Honorable mentions to Red Velvet at the Tricycle, In Basildon at the Royal Court and Last of the Haussmanns & The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nightime – both also at the National, which at last found its new writing form.

PLAY REVIVAL – Desire Under the Elms at the Lyric Hammersmith, a stunning revival of an OK play in a year of many gems, amongst which I would single out A Doll’s House at the Young Vic, She Stoops to Conquer at the NT, Philadelphia, Here I Come at the Donmar, Cornelius at the Finborough,Vieux Carre at the King’s Head, A Long Day’s Journey into Night in the West End and both of the radical Julius Caesar’s – the African one for the RSC and the all-female one at the Donmar.

NEW MUSICALA Winter’s Tale at the Landor. The easiest category to call in a very lean year, with Soho Cinders, Daddy Long Legs and Loserville the only other contenders – but that takes nothing away from the gem that Howard Goodall’s show was.

MUSICAL REVIVAL – Sweeney Todd, though this is the toughest category with no less than 10 other contenders – Patience, The Fix and Call Me Madam at the Union, Gay’s the Word & Merrie England at the Finborough, Guys & Dolls Upstairs at the Gatehouse, Curtains at the Landor, Boy Meets Boy at Jermyn Street, Merrily We Roll Along at the Menier, Opera North’s Carousel at the Barbican and another Chichester transfer, Singing in the Rain, in the West End.

TURKEY OF THE YEAR – The NT’s Damned for Despair, though this year there were also a trio of visiting turkeys, all at the Barbican – Big & Small, Nosferatu and Forests – and a pair of site specific turkeys – Babel & The Architects.

2012 will be hard to beat!

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The Architects

There was a time when Shunt were at the site specific / immersive cutting edge, under the arches in Bethnal Green. As they grew and moved to arches under London Bridge, they became somewhere young people came to be (seen to be) cool and the work seemed secondary. Like ‘Money’ before it, their latest show is a venue / design in search of a play.

They’ve gone to extraordinary lengths to build the art deco ballroom of a Danish liner inside a former biscuit factory in Bermondsey (plus a rather pointless maze of bare rooms to lead you there – eventually), but sadly what happens for the next 90 minutes is all rather dull and meaningless.

The cast mingle as you get yourself a drink and take your place at one of the tables. The pretty good three-piece rock band strikes up a tune. Then there’s a short lecture (rant) where you learn amongst other things that the title of the show refers to the fact that ships are designed by architects; this goes on way too long. The next 45 minutes are snatches of announcements from the ship’s staff  about entertainment options and problems on board and two (adult) children in onesies go round giving everyone a goodnight kiss. 

When the sirens indicate the need to evacuate, the men are asked to leave by one door and the women by another. After a short period in a dark pen watching messages on a TV screen, curtains open for an aerial scene which is followed by a tableaux with the customary nudity, at which point I think it was over – well, the band struck up again and people started walking back to the ‘ballroom’ where our glasses had been cleared away – so I took that opportunity to leave, as a curry at London Bridge was becoming impossible to resist.

I’m afraid that I found this all dreadfully dull and pointless and if you insist on going (or if you are already committed) my advice would be don’t get there too early (doors 7, show 8), wrap up warm and sit near the exit! The younger cool people appeared to be enjoying it more than me, but that may have been because it seemed cool. It isn’t.


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An extraordinary ‘set’ in search of a play!

Shunt have put on some amazing events in strange places (they have a penchant for being underneath railway arches). Here they are in a dis-used factory / warehouse near London Bridge.

After waiting amongst helmeted security guards listening to an intimidating soundscape and watching incomprehensible videos, an audience of c. 75 enter the second floor of what looks like a free-standing three-story machine. After a period of complete darkness with the soundscape getting louder and scarier, the cloth walls disappear and the lights go up and you find yourself in a wood-panelled debating chamber.

You later ascend one level to a bar with a four-sided balcony overlooking the glass ceiling of the debating chamber and, when it’s carpet tiles are removed, beyond that to two rooms another level below – a sauna and a living / dining room.  Actors come and go, speak, interact and occasionally move between levels through the ceiling / floor. The soundscape is eventually accompanied by wind and smoke.

The problem is the narrative is so obtuse and impenetrable that you’re left with just the spectacle. Worse still, on the night I went a handful of audience members who were clearly ‘Shunt virgins’ didn’t know what to do so they damaged the atmosphere by inappropriately interacting with the piece as if they were kids at school.

The design, though, is in a class of its own.

Having been to see ‘Life is a Dream’ on Monday, here I left feeling this could have been a dream.

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