This year marks 100 years since the birth of Roald Dahl. And what better way to pay tribute to the legendary children’s author than by bringing two of his most memorable characters to life. Coming to London this autumn is gruesome, immersive theatrical dining experience Dinners At The Twits.
Located deep in The Vaults below Waterloo train station, guests will be treated to 90 minutes of entertainment from the worst hosts ever. Les Enfants Terribles, the company behind last year’s immersive hit show Alice’s Adventures Underground, have teamed up with real-life Willy Wonkas, food and drink wizards Bompas & Parr to create a unique evening experience.
Upon arrival, diners will be greeted with a potent cocktail using ingredients from Mr Twit’s garden. Chose between The Terrible Shrinks (Roly Poly Bird berry and orange vodka topped with soda, garnished with a scented helium balloon) or The Twits Garden Spritz (wild nettle and thistle-infused Aperol, wild strawberry vermouth, prosecco and soda, garnished with nettles and thistles).
Guests will then take their seats with Mr and Mrs Twit at their chaotic table for a special menu conceived by Bompas & Parr. The banquet will include Wormery LIVE, Glowing Hug Tight Glue, Treasures of the Compost Heap, Bird Pie – Your Night of a Thousand Claws and Bloater Paste. To finish, you can chomp on Mr Twit’s Beardy Bar, special chocolates created specially for Dinner At The Twits. Chocolatiers Rococo Chocolates have conceived a wonderous mix of their own milk chocolate with cereal, banana, yoghurt, lapsang souchong tea and honey.
Meanwhile, you’ll be able to wash it down with half a bottle of bag-in-box wine from St. John Wines and Mr Twit’s Odious Ale – a bespoke brew by East London’s 40FT Brewery using the native yeast from Roald Dahl’s actual writing chair.
After the theatrical dinner, guests are invited to relax in the Muggle-Wumps’ Downside Up Cocktail Cavern in The Vaults for deliciously bizarre concoctions. The Cocktail Cavern will be open to all, so members of the public too scared to experience the gruesome meal can enjoy a flavour of The Twits’ world.
- Dinner At The Twits runs from 4 September – 30 October 2016. The Vaults, Launcelot Street (off Lower Marsh), Waterloo, SE1 7AD. Nearest station: Waterloo. Minimum age 14+. Tickets: £80-£110 (feature a 90 minute show, arrival cocktail, banquet with wine, box of chocolates and hot beverage). Timings: Tues-Sat evenings: 6pm, 7.15pm and 8.30pm, Sat matinees: 12pm, 1.15pm and 2.30pm . Sundays 12pm, 1.15pm, 2.30pm and 3.45pm. For booking, visit The Twits dinner website.
- The Muggle-Wumps’ Downside Up Cocktail Cavern is open to the general public from 6pm-late Tues-Sat and has free entry.
To find out what is on in London in September, click here.
Bedtime stories, frantic fans and drag superstars push the boundaries of theatre at LIFT Festival 2016
Returning to London this summer is the LIFT Festival, a month-long celebration and exploration of innovative theatre from around the world. During the month-long festival, over 30 events featuring work from 14 countries will take place at venues across London, from the Barbican to an East End cemetery.
LIFT has been a pioneer in pushing the boundaries of theatre since its inception in 1981 and this year promises to be its most exciting yet. As well as home-grown talent, there will also be work from 14 countries, including Argentina, Belgium, Greece, Poland, Canada, Japan, Australia, the USA, Lebanon and Syria.
Among the wide variety of entertainment will be wild Japanese pop fans, a circus in a cemetery, refugees, ancient Greeks and teenagers with attitude. Meanwhile, venues include Hackney Empire, Hoxton Hall, British Library, Royal Court Theatre, Southbank Centre, Barbican, Shoreditch Town Hall, Sadler’s Wells, Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park, Battersea Arts Centre and many more.
Kicking off this year’s festival will be American shaman, singer-songwriter, social critic and performance artist extraordinaire Taylor Mac with a fabulous romp through the great American songbook. Meanwhile, from Argentina, ‘Everything By My Side’ is an intimate, playful performance which invites you to slip between the sheets of a stranger’s bed and listen to a childhood tale. Jump into an immersive festival experience with ‘Miss Revolutionary Idol Berserker’, where the audience are encouraged to wear ponchos and ear plugs during a frenzied homage to otagei, (ritualised Japanese dancing and chanting by groups of fans).
Speaking about this year’s festival, LIFT Artistic Director Mark Ball said: ‘Does art help us belong? I have met pioneering artists and performers from around the world who connect to the astonishing range of international communities that make up London, and, asking that very question, have made a Festival that investigates how this amazing mix of people adds up to the London I love. The cultural influences and radical imaginations of our festival artists result in enthralling and joyful work that will be seen in spaces and venues that take us into the guts of the city – so make your own playlist and join us at LIFT 2016.’
- Lift Festival 2016 takes place from 1 June – 2 July 2016. Ticket prices vary. For more information, visit the LIFT Festival website.
For a guide to what else is on in London in June, click here.
Goosebumps Alive: Discover what lurks beneath at The Vaults below Waterloo in an immersive spooky experience
It’s one of the most popular book series of all time, having spooked hundreds of millions of readers around the world. And now fans of the ’90s hit books Goosebumps can experience some of the scary tales coming to life in a new immersive, theatrical experience.
Lurking deep in the abandoned railway tunnels beneath Waterloo station will be scenes from some of American author R.L. Stine’s iconic stories, such as Stay Out Of The Basement, Night Of The Living Dummy and Say Cheese And Die! Audience members young and old will be taken on a journey testing their mettle as they venture from room to room. Among the experiences guests can expect will be being buried alive, witnessing a flock of birds crash into a window or being grappled by monsters!
The new production, which opens for previews on 6 April, will be split into two immersive experiences – Goosebumps Kids (for children aged 5-11) and Goosebumps Alive (Adults, but suitable for over 12s). Directed by Tom Salamon, the experience will also feature original artwork from original Goosebumps books illustrator Tim Jacobus and set design by Samuel Wyer (from last year’s Vaults production Alice’s Adventures Underground). The Tiger Lillies band will also be performing live intermittently during the run.
Kieron Vanstone, Director at The Vaults said: ‘I’ve wanted to take Goosebumps to the stage for years but had to make sure I could do justice to R.L. Stine’s trademark combination of horror and humour. Immersive events have become the lifeblood of London culture, from Punchdrunk to Secret Cinema, and Goosebumps is perfectly suited to the genre – these stories were made to be experienced up close, with every shiver, sound and unsettling sight! I’ve been a lifelong fan of Goosebumps – who could forget Night of the Living Dummy? – and am thrilled to be bringing these shows to London this year, along with some of the best creative talent around.’
- Goosebumps Alive is on from 14 April until 4 September 2016 (previews start 6 April), while Goosebumps Kids runs from 14 May until 4 September (Every weekend and Tues-Sunday during school holidays only). Tickets: Adults start from £32.50, Children from £15 (plus booking fees). The adult show lasts 90 minutes with entry times from Tues-Fri: 7-9.30pm, Sat 1.30-9.30pm and Sun 1.30-7.30pm. Kids show lasts 50 minutes with entry times from Sat-Sun 11am-12.30pm and school holidays Tues-Sun 11am-12.30pm.
- The Vaults, Launcelot Street (off Lower Marsh), Waterloo, SE1 7AD. Nearest station: Waterloo. For more information and booking, visit Goosebumps Alive website.
Alice’s Adventures Underground review: Feel like a child again on a fantastical immersive theatre experience
Immersive theatre and cinema has been steadily growing in popularity in London in recent years, with Secret Cinema and Punch Drunk two stellar examples. With the 150th anniversary of Lewis Carroll’s masterpiece Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland this year, theatre company Les Enfants Terribles have created an immersive journey into Wonderland in the vaults below Waterloo station.
My friend and I paid a recent visit on a Sunday afternoon. It’s admittedly a bit tricky to review as different groups have totally different experiences and I wouldn’t want to ruin it for any potential visitors so I will try to give a flavour of what to expect. Photos aren’t allowed (except in the Wonderland bar afterwards) so you are free to fully immerse yourselves in the experience without the distraction of cameraphones.
After arriving 15 minutes before our allotted time, we were put into a large group and shown into a dark, messy room full of Victoriana – the study of Lewis Carroll. It isn’t long before we were given the choice of ‘Eat Me’ or ‘Drink Me’, splitting the group in half. We chose ‘Eat Me’, so ended up going through a special door. It wasn’t long before our groups are split in half again. As our journey continued, we were taken from room to room where we met characters from Wonderland, including the White Rabbit, the Playing Cards and a female version of Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. Throughout the experience, there is plenty of opportunities for interaction with the residents of Wonderland. I had a brief exchange with Alice, while my friend spoke to one of the Hearts playing cards.
One of the highlights was the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party – where all our original group were reunited for a fantastically chaotic tea party with the Mad Hatter, the March Hare and the sleepy Dormouse. My friend and I admitted we wished we had our cameras because it was such a fantastic sight. After finally getting the chance to see the terrifically scary Queen Of Hearts at the climax of show, we emerged into the atmospheric Wonderland Bar. The bar serves suitably themed cocktails and nibbles, but is also open late on Fridays and Saturday with live music and DJs.
My friend and I totally loved the show. It was a surreal and entertaining experience. The cast were brilliant and it is really down to them that the theatrical journey was so real. I was a fan of Alice In Wonderland when I was younger and the production really made me feel like a child again.
- Alice’s Adventures Underground takes place at The Vaults, Launcelot Street (off Lower Marsh), Waterloo, SE1 7AD until 30 August 2015. Nearest station: Waterloo. Tickets (should be booked in advance for specific time slots): Tues, Wed and Sunday £35, Thurs £40-£47.50, Fri and Sat £47.50. For more information and booking, visit the Alice’s Adventures Underground website.
The Legacy at The Hope Theatre: Love, money and bleeding heart liberals in a new play by Angela Clarke
Coming to The Hope Theatre this month is The Legacy, the debut play from acclaimed author and journalist Angela Clarke. Running for one week, The Legacy is a cynical and funny drama which explores gender, affluence and fighting back.
After years of estrangement, two sisters – who couldn’t be more different – are reunited following the death of their father for the reading of his will. Rebecca (Lucinda Westcar) is a content wife and mother revelling in her ‘perfect’ suburban life. Sister Esther (Claira Watson Parr) is her polar opposite – a politically minded, media savvy, online viral activist.
As the two sisters are brought together after a decade apart, Esther’s free-spirited attitude soon plays havoc with Rebecca’s idyllic existence, prompting both to face questions they’d rather avoid. It isn’t long before the pleasantries are gone, tempers are frayed and the reason behind Esther’s disappearance finally comes to light.
The Legacy is the debut play from Angela Clarke, whose debut novel Confessions Of A Fashionista was published in 2013. Directing is Michael Beigel, founder of Like The Clappers theatre collective. Previous directing credits include Love and Understanding (Cockpit Theatre) and The Glorious History and Tragical Demise of Doctor John Faustus (Space45).
- The Legacy runs from 8 – 13 July 2015 at The Hope Theatre (upstairs at the Hope & Anchor pub), 207 Upper Street, Islington, N1 1RL. Nearest station: Highbury & Islington. Tickets: £14/£12 conc. Show starts at 7.45pm (Sat matinee 2.30pm). Over 18s only. For more information and booking, visit The Hope Theatre’s website.
For a guide to what else is on in London this month, click here.
Have you ever wished you could travel through time? While the science world is yet to give us that opportunity, wannabe Marty McFlys or Bill & Teds can get a taste of what it could be like with the new experience Time Run.
Coming to East London this spring and summer, Time Run is a live quest meets immersive theatre in a new twist on the ‘escape the room’ games. Groups of three to five people will be taken on a 1 hour journey across history, where they will take on puzzles, challenges and solve mysteries. With just 60 minutes to complete the mission, the team-members will need to work together to escape a series of three rooms.
Joining them on their quest will be Edwardian adventurer, inventor and scientist Luna Fox and her eccentric, robotic sidekick Babbage, who will guide the new recruits along the way. The experience will bring 21st century gamers into strange new environments, where they will meet various characters and interactive with their unusual surroundings.
Time Run is a new concept from Josh Ford, the Director of boutique events company and festival Winterwell and co-founder of crazy golf club Swingers. Ford has teamed up with the Disappear Here collective to develop and produce this innovative new project.
- Time Run is taking place at 9-15 Helmsley Place, London Fields, E8 3SB from 23 April 2015 – 25 April 2018. Nearest station: London Fields. Tickets: £24 (off-peak), £29 (peak). For more information and booking, visit the Time Run website.
From the end of January for six weeks, the Vault Festival returns to the tunnels below Waterloo station. The unthemed, arts event, which originally started in 2012, features 500 events, including theatre, comedy, music, entertainment, food and drink.
Situated underground at The Vaults, this year’s festival will feature London premieres of radical theatre company Filter’s Macbeth, a new play True Brits from Rich Mason Productions and HighTide Festival Theatre, as well as shows from interactive artists Artful Badger, Red Bastard’s longest ever run and comedian and performance artist Yve Blake.
On Wednesdays and Sundays, a music programme has been curated by Mercury Prize nominee and contemporary folk pioneer Sam Lee’s The Nest Collective. For those looking for some after-hours action on the weekend, there will be late night parties on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays up until 3am. Among the Vault Lates events include The Love & Lightning Valentine’s Ball (13-14 February), Kansas Smitty’s Collective’s speakeasy club (31 January), Jum Jum old school house and garage (30 January), Mardi Gras (20-21 February) and Time Out Presents Filth – a silent disco with a difference (7 February), among others.
For younger arts fans, there is mini Vault over three weekends for families, including a comedy club, Big Fish Little Fish family raving crew with their Magic Under London rave (8 March) and interactive children’s show Albee Vector The Sound Collector.
Vault Festival Director Tim Wilson said: ‘We programme for Lambeth, for London, for the UK and for everyone. We make sure the festival has a pulse of many voices – there are 500 individual events happening at Vault, chosen by mixture of invitation, public submission and charitable competition, so each day has a unique heartbeat… It is now the longest, biggest, broadest-programme, most central performing arts Festival in London, all behind one magical door in Waterloo. It is a madness of superlatives. And you can drop by anytime and discover us, and surprise yourself, for free.’
Tickets range from free to £15. For those unorganised to get tickets in advance, the festival bar is free and will be open nightly for drinks and dancing.
- The Vault Festival runs from 28 January – 8 March 2015 and takes place at The Vaults, Leake Street, Waterloo, SE1 7NN. Nearest station: Waterloo. For more information and tickets, visit the Vault Festival website.
For a guide to what else is on in London this month, click here.
Following a sell-out three-month run at the St James Theatre this spring, hit show Urinetown: The Musical has just opened at the Apollo Theatre. With such a title, there’s no surprise to learn this isn’t your typical fluffy, hearts and rainbows type of show. An original and witty production, Urinetown originally opened on Broadway in 2001 and won three Tony Awards during its near three year-run.
Set in a Dystopian future, residents of a city are living through a long drought, which has led to strict water rationing so spending a penny… well, costs a lot more than a penny. It appears the basic right of relieving yourself has become something for the elite and those who attempt to do it for free are punished by being sent to ‘Urinetown’.
The run at St James Theatre has already wowed critics, with the Daily Telegraph labelling the show: ‘Sharp, smart, funny and disturbing,’ while The Guardian wrote: ‘It’s impossible to deny the originality of this crowd-pleaser.’
Directed by Jamie Lloyd (Richard III, The Commitments), the production stars Simon Paisley Day (Caldwell B Cladwell), Matthew Seadon Young (Bobby Strong), Jenna Russell (Penelope Pennywise), Rosanna Hyland (Hope Cladwell), Karis Jack (Little Sally), Nathan Amzi (Officer Barrel), Jonathan Slinger (Officer Lockstock) and Marc Elliott (Mr McQueen). The show, written by Mark Hollmann and Greg Kotis, runs at the beautifully refurbished Apollo Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue.
- Urinetown: The Musical is on at the Apollo Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, from 29 September 2014. Tickets start from £21.50. For tickets and more information, visit the official Urinetown website. There is also a special gala performance of the show on 20 October 2014, with ticket proceeds going to WaterAid.org, which helps those in developing countries gain access to clean drinking water and proper toilet facilities.
For the guide to what else is on in London this month, click here.
Let The Right One In – Apollo Theatre
Approaching the end of its run at the Apollo Theatre is John Tiffany’s acclaimed production of Let The Right One In. Having already won over audiences and critics at the Dundee Rep Theatre and the Royal Court, it opened at the refurbished Apollo Theatre in the West End in March. After hearing great things about the production, I finally went to see the play in its last few weeks.
The first thing that strikes you is the stunning stage design – the original setting of Sweden from the 2004 novel (by John Ajvide Lindqvist) and cult film adaptation has been moved to a wintry Scotland in the 1980s. The play takes place in a forest full of silver birch trees which looks magical under the moonlight and a spooky street lamp. The plotline grips the audience from the start as a man is killed like a pig strung up on a tree with his blood drained – the first sign this is not a traditional love story. A serial killer is on the loose, which isn’t appearing to ruffle lonely teenager Oskar (Martin Quinn), who continues to hang around in the woods. The son of divorced parents, of which neither is quite up to the job, Oskar finds no support in school either, where he is brutally bullied by Jonny (Graeme Dalling) and his cronies.
It is in the eerie forest where Oskar meets Eli (Rebecca Benson), a pale girl who ‘smells funny’, who immediately informs him they ‘can’t be friends’. Despite her odd behaviour, Oskar is drawn to her and it isn’t long before the two form a friendship, eventually turning to romance. It soon transpires she’s a lot odder than Oskar ever anticipated – she’s a centuries old vampire and the man who appears to be her father, her ‘protector’ Hakan (Clive Mendus) has been responsible for the murders in a bid to feed her blood.
The dysfunctional dynamics between Oskar and his alcoholic mother and absent father and Eli with possessive Hakan brings up many issues aside from the love story. The play explores loneliness in its many forms, no doubt stirring many memories in the audience who would have all felt that emotion at some point in life. Despite being a ‘monster’, Eli appears more human and compassionate than the violent bullies who torment Oskar at school.
Assisted by Ólafur Arnalds’ score and beautifully choreographed movement sequences, the play has moments of horror, humour and tenderness. Quinn’s brilliant performance as awkward Oskar stirs both sympathy and laughter, while Benson is stunning as she shows both Eli’s vulnerability and horrific power simmering within. Let The Right One In brings a moving combination of plot layers, actors, stage design and music, all working together to create a striking piece of theatre. Although the production is about to end its West End run imminently, I am certain we will see this compelling show again, whether it’ll be elsewhere in the UK or New York.
- The National Theatre of Scotland’s production of Let the Right One is on the Apollo Theatre until 30 August 2014. To book, call 0844 412 4658 (no booking fee) or online at NimaxTheatres.com, Right One In.com or SeeTickets.com (no booking fee).
For a guide to what else is on in London this month, click here.
Following a short run at Morden Hall Park, a new production of Twelfth Night opened at Brockwell Park, Herne Hill on July 3. The production features a cast of nine, and is set on a simple stage. Of course, with William Shakespeare‘s words, there isn’t much need for props. Of all the plays of The Bard I have seen, Twelfth Night is one of the more uplifting and fun and was hoping this production would do the play justice. Arriving at the open air stage just beside Grade II-listed Brockwell House at the top of the hill in the park, I was keeping an open mind with my expectations. However, was pleasantly surprised to find them surpassed. While Shakespeare’s language can be hard work to understand, the emotion and timing by the excellent cast made them easy to decipher.
The production is set during the 1960s in the Mediterranean, with twins Viola (Amy Downham) and Sebastian (Paul Hayward) arriving separately on the island of Illyria after being shipwrecked. Heartbroken with grief thinking her brother has drowned, Viola decides to disguise herself as a boy and finds work with the dashing Duke Orsino (Adrian Irvine). Orsino is lovesick for Countess Olivia (Alicia Charles) and employs Viola to woo her on his behalf. Unbeknown to him, his right hand man ‘Cesario’ is actually a woman… and pining for him. Rather uncomfortably for Viola, she realises that Olivia has fallen for her, believing her to be a man. The love triangle soon becomes a love square when Sebastian arrives on the scene – with all the locals believing he is Cesario. Viola fighting off the attentions of a persistent Olivia makes for hilarious scenes.
Providing a hilarious subplot is Olivia’s drunken uncle Sir Toby Belch (Anthony Glennon), who spends his time drinking and making mischief with his niece’s gentlewoman Maria (Jennifer Rhodes), Sir Andrew Aghecheek (Andrew Pepper) and court jester Feste (Morgan Philpott). They end up targeting Olivia’s steward Malvolio (Philip Childs) in a bid to amuse themselves, causing much discomfort for Olivia.
The play was divided into two acts, which moved very swiftly. Unlike with some other Shakespeare productions, it was easy to keep up and the audience were frequently in hysterics as the chaos unfolded. While I found the cast all excellent, Pepper’s Andrew and Childs’ portrayal of the ‘most notoriously abused’ Malvolio were particularly entertaining. On a warm summer night, the intimate setting was relaxing and quaint. I can highly recommend the production, so check it out before it closes.
- The Attic Theatre Co & Sixteenfeet production of Twelfth Night or What You Will Run runs from July 3 – 14 just beside Brockwell Hall at Brockwell Park, Herne Hill. Evening performances nightly 7.15pm, matinee performances 2.30pm (July 11) and 4pm (July 13). Tickets: £10-£17. Nearest station: Herne Hill (10 minutes from Victoria or Blackfriars). For more information and tickets, visit the Twelfth Night website