'The Architects' / Shunt review
At the tender age of 14 I was to experience my first piece of
theatre. The National is most people’s first point of call, but my
youth theatre tutor dragged us on the Central line and pushed us
down an alley in Bethnal Green. This was almost 14 years ago when
E2 was more BNP than the VIP hipsterville it is today. That night
my mind exploded and with it the possibilities of what theatre
could be – my first ever show was Shunt.
Last week I was dragged on the Jubilee line and pushed down an
alley in Bermondsey to see Shunt’s latest offering The
Architects. This is their first show since closing their
space in London Bridge that saw many a messy night of anarchic
performance and regrettable hangovers.
The Architects is full of Shunt tricks that
any veteran of their work should have adapted to, but still I find
myself lost, confused and trying to work out what is going on – I
feel like I’ve woken up in the home bit of Ikea on a Bank Holiday
in 1984 – all this before the performance has even begun.
Eventually I find myself on a cruise ship (obviously) surrounded
by people I think are plants – it turns out they are just punters
but the Shunt experience leaves its audience looking
suspicious so everyone looks like they are up to no good.
As a company they do environment well. At no point do I not
believe I’m on a cruise ship and half the battle of then being
able to warp my mind is done. The performances are strong,
frightening and worryingly accurate. Dressed in fussy bits of
awkward grey and managing to sneak up to you in the dark – not in
a London Dungeon way, more Are You Being Served? on
Shunt’s sense of humour shines through in this piece. I
can’t help but unleash my socially unacceptable laugh, but as
humour is subjective, it’s lost on some of the patrons that have
booked this via the National Theatre thinking it might be a bit
like One Man Two Guvnors.
Just as you are getting comfortable and think you’re clever
enough to work out what is happening next you’re wrong and that’s
all I want to give away. Like the uncomfortable teenager that was
made to sit in a room and have his head scrambled, I feel the same
way as an adult well versed in this kind of work. Shunt
still has the ability to make me feel at home and uncomfortable at
the same time. The Architects is subtly subversive and
wonderfully wrong. If you’re bored of the word ‘immersive’ then go
watch Shunt reinvent the genre, again.