The Swell Mob: Enter A Victorian Saloon Hiding A Dark Secret In This Immersive Show

The Swell Mob ★★★☆☆

By Lydia Manch Last edited 13 months ago

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The Swell Mob: Enter A Victorian Saloon Hiding A Dark Secret In This Immersive Show The Swell Mob 3

The Swell Mob have set up shop in Borough — in a grimy, flickeringly-lit bar staffed by the desperate and the venemous.

Their Victorian saloon is a hotbed of vice, gambling, bad deeds and bathtub gin. Also puppetry, singalongs, stage fighting, card games and drinking.  

Flabbergast Theatre is a company with a brilliant record of melding theatrical traditions into weird and new shapes. We were big fans of some of their previous shows: Boris and Sergey were vaudeville trailblazers, but also heavily macho Balkan puppets with a hinted-at history of violence.  

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Flabbergast are pulling much bigger strings this time, with this immersive show sprawling across different rooms and different characters.

We can't reveal much about the time you'll spend in the Swell Mob's saloon. Partly because it's secret, partly because everybody's route through the show is going to be different. Expect an elaborate and beautifully executed 75 minutes — impressive set, some tight choreography and a magnetic cast.

It's bigger on atmosphere than narrative, glimpses of character backstory brief — more like a series of stylised tableaux than a story arc. We bounce from room to room, from card table to boxing ring, on fragmented missions that make it easier to enjoy the escapism of the setting than invest in where it's going. Imagine a Secret Cinema experience where you've never seen the film, and never do. But if you go expecting an enjoyable whirl through a handful of slick, gleefully-delivered set-pieces, you won't be disappointed.

The Swell Mob from Flabbergast Theatre runs until 28 July 2019. Tickets are £26. COLAB Factory, 74 Long Lane, SE1 4AU.

Last Updated 14 May 2019