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Once Upon a Time on Something Street review at Madeira Drive, Brighton – ‘charming immersive show’

Scene from Once Upon a Time on Something Street, Brighton. Photo: Joe Acres Scene from Once Upon a Time on Something Street, Brighton. Photo: Joe Acres
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Coming off a bit like a time-hopping EastEnders, this pop-up immersive experience on Brighton seafront doesn’t match up to its ambition, but is still fun.

The brainchild of Joe Acres (who’s had a hand in practically every aspect), Something Street is a purpose-built, covered row of houses and rooms. In groups, we watch vignettes from lives separated by walls but jumbled between decades.

A forgotten street, unmoored from history, is enticing. But Once Upon a Time on Something Street isn’t a Neil Gaiman-style, modern fairytale. From a father-son deathbed confession, to a wartime romance, it’s a fairly earnest show about the preciousness of time.

The acting by the large cast is variable and some of the scenes – with the notable exception of a genuinely funny flat-viewing – tip into hackneyed melodrama. The show, as with much immersive work, also struggles to successfully integrate us in its world.

Ironically, one of Something Street’s most distracting elements is our guides, or ‘Timekeepers’, whose surreptitious signalling to the cast when a scene needs to wrap up is hard to ignore. This particular awareness of time ticking down presumably isn’t intended.

But there’s charm to the basic premise of making every second count, as well as to the makeshift feel of everything. Acres is big enough to include a few wry jokes within the show about chipboard ceilings.

Enthusiasm smooths over many of the rough edges. And with a food-tent and a bar outside, Whizz Bang Productions have turned this stretch of beach into – appropriately – somewhere nice to take time out.

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Rough around the edges but charming immersive show about the preciousness of time