The People’s Revolt review at Tower of London – ‘a breathless dash through history’
Marx said that history repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce. The Peasants' Revolt of 1381, a popular uprising fuelled by anger over harsh taxes, was pretty serious stuff. The People's Revolt, DifferencEngine's immersive, interactive show at the Tower of London is, if not farcical, then a good deal more enjoyable than its 14th-century forerunner. Probably.
In a dystopian future where government cuts have pushed the poorest to breaking point, you have been enlisted to help storm the Tower and fling open the gates to the baying populous outside. Mustering in covert outside Tower Hill tube, you hustle around Tower Hamlets, slip underneath Tower Bridge, dart across the yawning moat and sneak into the castle itself. Adrenaline runs through veins. History bleeds through walls.
The plotline successfully weaves contemporary social injustices into a 600 year-old story; Lord Chancellor Sudbury is no longer implementing a punishing poll tax, but slashing the NHS to the bone. And if the evening's progression grows slightly smudgy – the result of devolving too much power to participants – the confusion is balanced by a series of intimidatingly severe cameos, a delightfully labyrinthine journey, and some spectacular views of the Tower at night.
As with most interactive theatre, your enjoyment correlates with your willingness to accept the overarching conceit. Accept The People's Revolt, and the reward is a breathless dash through the history books and a rare chance to rehearse for the coming revolution. It is, simply, great fun.