The Architects by Shunt
Dodgy Scandinavian accents, a pair of acrobats in baby jumpsuits and a heavily pregnant woman who extracts a pair of slippers from a wooden cow’s behind: it can only be a night of experimental theatre in London
Summary: Theatre group Shunt have taken over a disused biscuit factory in Bermondsey to put on a show called The Architects, part inspired Jorge Luis Borges’s retelling of the myth of the minotaur in The House of Asterion.
Upon entering the factory, visitors are made to walk through a maze of corridors and rooms, some with TV screens showing that they are being filmed, others with clues and motifs from the evening’s show. They then enter a room decked out like the restaurant of a vintage cruise ship, complete with portholes and a real bar.
This is where the ‘Architects’ take over - a group of four Danish holiday reps, there to provide ‘the trip of a lifetime’ but whose regular updates become steadily more absurd. Musical interludes from a live rock band, acrobatics and an unexpectedly sinister finale all add to the mix.
Highlights: Shunt are well practiced in modifying unusual spaces, and one of the main highlights here is exploring a location that is usually out of bounds.
The earlier you arrive, the more time you have to explore the labyrinth between the entrance and the performance space. The cruise ship is also very believable, with art-deco-style furnishings and the functioning bar which remains open throughout.
And be sure to take a trip to the toilet before the performance begins – only for the experience of walking through a cavernous, almost pitch-black warehouse with just a dim fibre-optic cable providing light and leading you the right way.
Low points: Towards the beginning of the performance, one of the ‘Architects’ recites a spirited speech by Daniel Libeskind discussing his 17 words of architectural inspiration, which makes you imagine at first that the show will be devoted to a discussion of architectural theory.
However, apart from inferences you may draw from the use of space itself, the performance doesn’t touch on architecture again. Which is perhaps a blessing to others in the audience, but a let-down for those actually interested.
Producer’s comment: ‘A wildly disorientating performance chasing the tail of myths, memory and misanthropy; and the vague hope that among you there might also be a hero.’
Final word: If you’re the type of person who likes films or performances where everything is tied up at the end, then you won’t like this. If you leave feeling bemused by the comical cabaret which makes up most of the evening, baffled by the evening’s plot and unsettled by the show’s dark climax, then Shunt’s members will feel they have succeeded.
The Architects by Shunt
V22 Workspace, The Biscuit Factory, 100 Clements Road, London SE16 4DG
Until Saturday 2 February 2013
Tuesdays to Saturdays: Show starts at 8pm, bar opens at 7pm
Saturday matinee: Show starts at 3pm, bar opens at 2pm
Sundays: Show starts at 6pm, bar opens at 5pm
Sunday matinee: Show starts at 12pm, bar opens at 11am