the Swell Mob (by Flabbergast Theatre), colab factory – REVIEW

“A great piece of interactive, immersive theatre. There’s nothing else like it right now”

Immersive theatre is tricky to get right. People have their own versions already set in their minds on what they think they should be and the concept of immersive theatre can be so varied, many can find themselves disappointed. People can compare it to the highly-grand and expensive Punchdrunk-esque stories like The Drowned Man or even a loud and poorly-directed pieces where the audience leave not really knowing the entire concept or story of the performance. This is thankfully not the case with Flabbergast Theatre’s ‘The Swell Mob’ which in a small building nearer Borough Station brings a well-paced and intriguing immersive drama set in a tap room in the 1800s filled with puppets, cynical characters, a boxing ring, a working bar with various mysterious rooms and hallways.

Our cast of actors work the room making sure no audience member goes unnoticed – which may seem off-putting for those who ‘don’t like to get involved’ but the characters are reassuringly fun to interact with, no matter how confident or shy you may be. As one female character approaches me and my guest, we are informed of a boxing match, between confident gentleman Cornelius and the highly unsettling but likeable Amadeus, happening in the basement below shortly and hands us a vile with something strange in it. If we are able to slip said vile into Cornelius’  drink without him noticing, it will be almost certain for Amadeus to win. Now, we can’t be exactly sure why the female wanted this to happen but we did what she asked without hesitation or question – we are easy pushovers and will do anything for attention. The boxing match between the two was impeccably choreographed and a fascinating watch.

With interactive shows, many storylines are unravelling at the same time. Whilst we were following the tales of Cornelius and Amadeus, other audience members were wandering around the hallways, looking for ‘contracts’ and ‘clues’. The intricate, mysterious and detailed nature of this production allows you to keep coming back to The Swell Mob to learn more. In a 75-minute performance, the cast are able to charm you, intrigue you and it was quite surprising how so many of them remember your name after talking to you for a short two minutes at the beginning.

The set is well designed and the direction and the overall flow of the piece is masterful and the cast give energetic performances. For something that was highly commended in at the Edinburgh Theatre Festival last year, the show has worked well to keep up the momentum and interest. The Swell Mob is a great piece of interactive, immersive theatre. There’s nothing else like it right now.

RATING: 4 OUT OF 5 STARS

‘The Swell Mob’ continues at the COLAB Factory, London and is booking until June 2. Tickets can be bought HERE.

Tagged , , , , ,