Review of The Swell Mob at The Colab Factory

The Swell Mob -Rod Penn
The Swell Mob -Rod Penn

The introduction speech before you enter the venue doesn’t prepare you for the surreal encounters you are about to embark on in Swell Mob. Upon entry, you are greeted by two of the cast members in a small curtained area which sets an uneasy scene before you begin the experience.

The actors all play their parts exceptionally well. Especially the quirky performance by Louisa/Tabatha who likes to chat with you and be rewarded by coins for her valuable information. I urge you to chat with her too as she knows more than she lets on.

There are parts to the evening that can be somewhat confusing. For example, it’s published as interactive with clues about the storyline to be found along the way. However, this is not really explained to you so you are spending a bit of time watching the cast to pick up on what is going on around you.

The bare-knuckle reenacted fight is very well staged and it pays to talk to some of the characters beforehand to bribe your way to a tip on who wins. Most of the cast find their way around all of the audience interacting and engaging with everyone. Their costumes and stage presence are incredibly well done. They all looked superb.

The rooms are all set up differently and each space has had a lot of attention to detail in it. The whole set is brilliantly designed and laid out for you to explore. There was only one puppet that I saw in the production. It’s rather sinister and eerie to watch. The puppeteer fits his role well as the puppet then overpowers him as the performance develops.

They do suggest that people dress up for this event and although not many did the evening I attended – I did and it added another edge to the performance as the characters could interact with you about your costume and it felt like you were part of the surroundings more.

For an interesting and unusual theatre experience, this is definitely worth going along to try out. Even if you only observe what is going on around you it’s a very entertaining evening.

4 Stars

Review by Elaine Chapman

Flabbergast Theatre, are the creators of; Boris & Sergey: puppetry’s Balkan bad boys and “the greatest vaudevillian double act ever conceived for the small stage” Tatterdemalion, the award-winning puppetry, physical comedy, and mime performance and Skrimshanks the bizarre buffoon immersive theatre Fringe hit.

Now they bring their award-winning 2018 Edinburgh Festival Fringe hit to London for a three month run at the COLAB Factory, London Bridge.

Flabbergast presents their newest and perhaps their boldest creation to date – an explosive immersive theatrical experience, as dark as it is fun. They bring you; The Swell Mob.

Who would suppose, for example, that those young men at the corner, dressed in the height of the Cockney fashion, bedizened with mosaic jewellery, and puffing their cigars, are members of the swell mob – thieves, in short, and pickpockets?” (From The World of London, by John Murray, in Blackwoods Magazine, August 1841) Audiences are invited to dress up to the nines and submerge themselves in the delights of an 1800s tap-room, to dance, sing, gamble, and cheat their way through a decaying world. Swig a London Porter and become the Hero, or swill Bathtub Gin and relish in the carousel.

Award-winning Clown, Puppetry and Cabaret combine to create a murky world of dandies and deception, in this delightful, provocative and utterly immersive theatre experience.

4th May – 25th August
COLAB Factory, 74 Long Lane, London SE14AU

7:00pm (Thursday to Sunday)
8:45pm (Thursday to Saturday)
Running Time: 75 mins

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