Eccentric young theatre troupe Gruff has taken over the Victorian basilica (aka The Space) at the less fashionable end of the Isle of Dogs and re-imagined its interior as a crumbling family mansion, home to a clan of mad, grimy aristocrats who seem equally sensitive to light, people and taking a bath.
There is more than a hint of Royston Vasey in this interactive show as a nervy audience of around 20 people is led through the labyrinthine pile and treated to ‘amuse bouches’, local gossip and sinister parlour games. The ramshackle salons are made up of church pews, chicken wire and dusty chandeliers with corridors folding back around each other like a tangle of rotting intestines. “Let’s take a detour!” roars someone, somewhere – and we do, we must – it’s in the rules! And while the guests try to figure out where they are and why, the stuttering hosts argue about etiquette and work every awkward silence for maximum discomfort.
The four energetic performers in Instructionally Invited are all deep in character — as well as thermal underwear and winter coats. Phoebe Naughton and Holly Shuttleworth channel Miss Havisham and Estelle, Alistair Foylan snivels perfectly as ‘the runt’, while Thomas Bostock tears up the furniture as a highly inbred cross between Oliver Reed and Rasputin. There’s also support from co-creators Ally Couch and Joseph Mercier.
This is a sweaty, silly and softly-satirical hour-long show; be prepared to engage and possibly get engaged. And maybe, before you go, practice how to smile politely without it looking like a rictus of horror. Awkwardness as an art form.
Instructionally Invited is on at The Space until 13 August, times vary. Londonist saw this play on a complimentary ticket.