Sinking my soul in immersive theatre

I don’t know why but I find ‘Shunt’ a difficult name to remember. Shack, Skint, Skunk etc. all go through my mind until a few minutes later my brain finally produces the right word. Anyway, a short Google search later, seeing if there’s a story behind the name, I find out they’re a nonprofit company funded by The British Arts Council. For all our moaning about life in the UK these days I’m more prone to thinking how lucky we are, the importance placed on The Arts and the support it gets means we have a better chance than most of progressing the collective mind.

Anyway, Friday 26th September on my way to the bloody O2, I really don’t like going to see music there, there’s no intimate experience, mass herding – I think less of artists who choose it as a venue. I’m surprisingly on time and excited to find out where this theatre might be. I have no idea what to expect, I’ve never been to a Shunt. My only experience of immersive theatre is ‘Drowning Man’ which was one of the best invasion on the senses ever, but at 3 hours long and a secret bar I struggled to find, I’m also slightly tense about the endurance I might need.

The Jetty Theatre is a nightmare to find but it’s a total delight when you do. The riverside view of London at twilight is immense and the red lights on the Emirates cable car up high make for an epic scene. Once you find the theatre you immediately feel the same sense of escapism when you find the secret fairy lit woods at a festival. Old shipping containers form a glowing courtyard bar, fitted with heaters and magical lighting it takes about 3 seconds to unwind, tripled by the fact I’m relieved to know the show is only 45 mins long an I can in fact spend at least part of the night getting drunk.

Spoiler alert – STOP reading now.

So, I still don’t know why it’s called ‘The Boy Who Crawled Out Of His Face.’ The theatre is built in shipping containers and it’s the story of people who flee across the waters in these unthinkable chemical-class travelling conditions. To begin with you have to take your shoes off and put your drinks down, bit annoying, although I’m sure not as inconvenient as having to leave all your worldly possessions behind forever.

Then it’s all a bit of a laugh, the senses are tingling and there’s a sense of camaraderie. First you’re lulled in to a false sense of fun in the sweaty rave container, comparable to the excitement of the start of the new journey to the promise land. “Oh my god, I NEED to go to a dirty dingy club immediately!” pinged into my mind. Gradually the excitement fades and you begin feeling claustrophobic and bleak. The rest of the container experiences are a bit of a blur in all honesty, I’m left with a resounding sense of hell. Right at the end you pop out into fresh air, yeah! Oh god, no, really? Only to be greeted by a naked wigged man serenading in a fashion akin to Anthony and the Johnsons. As you look down, you notice the sinking container he’s standing on is surrounded by floating dead baby dolls.

Shunt image 2

The reality of the horror of those trying to reach safer shores hits you like a freight container.