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Stuart King

Review: THESE ROOMS at the Shoreditch Town Hall

These Rooms - Shoreditch Town Hall As part of LIFT 2018, the Irish dance theatre company CoisCéim in collaboration with ANU Productions have taken over Shoreditch Town Hall for an immersive dance/performance/art installation experience, but with little consideration for those who will endure it.

In recent years, London has played host to a dizzying array of immersive experiences - from the basic acted-out murder mysteries where patrons are shepherded from room to room in West End hotels, to the extraordinarily slick, imaginative and often disconcerting You Me Bum Bum Train at Foyles. 

THESE ROOMS delivers a singularly morose history lesson drawn primarily from the 1916 Easter Rising and more specifically a notorious incident where 15 civilian men were killed in house-to-house raids in what became known as the North King Street Massacre. It is a one of many dark and miserable stories from the troubles, which reflect badly on a succession of British governments who repeatedly despatched inexperienced and emotionally ill-equipped troops to put down protests. Members of the South Staffordshire Regiment who committed the atrocities remained anonymous and controversially were later exonerated at a military inquiry which did little to calm the disquiet felt in Dublin. 

As patrons shuffle along corridors and into cramp rooms, they are treated to a variety of reimagined scenes where the performers do their best to impress with their earnestness, startle and shock (largely by means of shouting) with their response to situations of jeopardy. It is relatively tiresome at the outset, so imagine how draining and dispiriting it has become by the end. My two stars are for the creative effort demonstrated by the set designers and for the sheer tenacity of the performers who gamely managed to reach the end without the slightest hint that they were embarrassed by the cringeworthy self-indulgence of much of the material.