REVIEW: The Architects

The Biscuit Factory, Bermondsey

15th January 2013

If Shunt’s The Architects was an example of the “Trip of a Lifetime” then I would rather pay for a trip to Greece and battle the Minotaur in person than get back on that ferry.

The experimental company’s newest work, based loosely around Jorge Luis Borges, The House of Asterion is certainly created for the mythologists in mind. A confusing jigsaw of juxtaposing characters, unsystematic settings and random links to Greek legend make for very confused audience members and an almost nonexistent storyline.

You can’t help but sense a chill in the air as you arrive at one of the most ominous buildings in East London…with not a biscuit in sight. The entrance almost feels as if you are walking to your death. As you show your ticket and enter a labyrinth this idea continues, with the maze itself best described as a network of coffin-like chambers.  The final destination of this lacklustre treasure trail is quite literally a watering hole on water – a 1950’s dance bar on a cruise liner. In all fairness the scene is set well but with the number of acting stooges entering and exiting from “staff only” doorways and the obvious use of iphone apps by the band, any illusions trying to be created are broken straight away.

As the “Trip of a Lifetime” begins there are many fantastic comedic lines and the comic timing of the actors cannot be shunned. However, the purpose of Hannah Ringham’s character sticking her hand up a cows’ behind to retrieve a crystal encrusted stiletto remains annoyingly unanswered to this day. The random arrival of two “children” (a middle aged man and woman in babygrows) also adds hilarity, yet their exit – just as arbitrary – left me feeling extremely angry as they spent a good ten minutes kissing everyone in the room good night, EXCEPT for me. This farcical hijinks is definitely entertaining but does seem to drag by the end.

As the beast is unleashed and the men and women are split into two different black chambers, each containing a screen displaying words (like a haunted house ride at Disneyland Paris), the audience really have to use their imagination to grasp the depth of heroic action that the piece is trying to create. At no point did I think my life was at risk, or anyone else’s for that matter – an upsetting realisation after the build up at the beginning of the performance.

With a random acrobatic act and some unnecessary male nudity to end this pick and mix production, the stunned audience leave the warehouse questioning why their money was not spent on a heating device for the venue rather than underused circus performers and an overused smoke machine.

The youngest Architect states in her monologue at the start of our ‘trip’ that “critics like us to repeat things over and over” but on this occasion I will happily go against the grain and ask them never to repeat the journey if I am on board.

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Laura Elands

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