The venue is a derelict building abandoned by Uzbekistan Airways. Within, there are multiple theatre companies holding performances across four floors that you haggle your way into*. The bar area has been taken over by some of the best cabaret in London. This is Theatre Souk and it could be just what theatreland needs.
Going to the theatre is not cheap. With this in mind, the event's Head Curator (Jessica Brewster of TheatreSouk's innovative producers Theatre Delicatessen) has organised a novel pay-as-you-go theatre experience. You turn up, pay £7 on the door and then pay for individual performances. A sensible place to start out is the bar area where an oldschool blackboard shows which shows what's on and when while being entertained by a daily changing cabaret acts. On press night included Londonist favourites Mat Ricardo, Pistol n Jack, EastEnd Cabaret or Sarah-Louise Young (who is also the cabaret curator).
We started at the bottom and worked our way up (stop sniggering at the back). In the basement, Priceless is the reality show where you could be the next contestant. Ok, so the last winner died on camera but surely that won't happen twice? On the ground floor, you can share a small room with a Neil Connolly's bonkers banker, the titular Matador, while he lets you into what it's like to be super-rich and who's really to blame for the financial crisis. Up a floor and we're playing poker with two huge puppets in one room and then popping into the HalfCut room to decide just which part of a live subject we want to shave (we went for an inch off his chest hair with the clippers). One more floor up and in Straight Out Of Line's Soft Armour we're given a lab coat and find ourselves attending an autopsy amid a birthday party. Slowly, we're introduced to the unfortunate victim's tragic past. On the top floor, we see the parallel hotel room stories from an extract of CurvingRoad's Breathing Corpses.
Best act of the night for us was the Natural Shocks' Between Life And Nowhere which is a wordless romance set in a stairwell and surrounding stairs. Using pulleys, ropes and the surrounding stairs, a tragic story plays out above, below and around the audience.
We love what Theatre Souk have created here. This is punk theatre, tearing up the rulebook that says that the only way to attract punters is through big names, high prices and remakes. All of the theatre groups were genuinely exciting and entertaining, offering live immersive theatre on a par seen in Punchdrunk's Masque Of The Red Death. This is probably the underground theatre hit of the year and we very much look forward to its return.
Theatre Souk is on until October 16 with tickets are available for £7 on the door (additional performances from £1) and full details on Theatre Souk can be found here.
* No-one haggles like a Sicilian. It's true.