There’s an intriguing show on near the O2. Immersive theatre masters Shunt have built a palace of shipping containers for their latest theatre offering, The Boy Who Climbed Out of His Face. The play is akin to an acid trip – and one on which you cannot wear your shoes – and it’s a really strange and delightful event.
The evening is strange yet enjoyable in equal measures. The performance takes place in a series of rooms (individual shipping containers.) All are inhabited by plastic mask-wearing people. The masks are deliberately oversized, and come across as both muted and threatening in character. The masks dehumanise the actors and allow for no actors to have differing facial features from one another; this has the weird effect of allowing them to all stand out and blend in at the same time.
The rooms are a series of adventures. One has a brilliant yet simple optical illusion in it (don’t volunteer to go first or you won’t be able to appreciate it), others rely on atmosphere and tripping of your senses to allow you to experience the scene. It is truly a voyage for the senses. An elevator scene is wonderful– without the lift ever moving. There are things to see, hear and touch as you move around – but I did find that for a sensory based adventure, the sense of smell was sadly lacking. The actual shipping container set, in which we “travel” across a sea to a land we presumably are being smuggled to – very impressive and moving – was wonderful in terms of visuals and sounds, but was sorely lacking in the bad smells that would have accompanied such a journey. The woodsy scene had a great earthy smell to it, but this was the only room to notably utilise smell.
There is much fun to be had at Shunt, and half of the joy is taking part in some of the games. The karakoe room is such good fun – just let loose and start singing along or dancing or whatever you want – but don’t head to this event looking for a narrative. The Boy Who Climbed Out of His Face is a spectacle, and a very fun one at that, but if there is a narrative associated with the event, it is extremely difficult to identify.
The audience are led from room to room in a timely manner, and then up to the roof for the finale.
This finale finds the audience on the roof of the storage containers, whilst below us, in the centre of the shipping containers sits a man-made lake of water with half of a shipping container sticking out of the water and naked baby dolls float through the water. A man dressing and then un-dressing in woman’s clothing sings and plays guitar whilst bemused people hover between staying and going. It’s part Mumford and Son’s concert, part voyeuristic peep show — and be warned, there are genitals.
It’s really a strange evening, but it’s certainly lively and fun. There’s two bars, food, hammocks and heaters outside of the containers, so if you head out there, make an evening of it.
Shunt are running The Boy Who Climbed Out of His Face until 28th September, and you can buy tickets for the show here. They are possibly the best thing in London that you can buy for a tenner.