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The Droves review at CoLab Factory, London – ‘interactive theatre designed by children’

Scene from The Droves at CoLab Factory, London Scene from The Droves at CoLab Factory, London
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An interactive theatre experience for adults, designed and performed by kids. What could go wrong?

Surprisingly little, in fact, in Coney’s part escape-room, part immersive event The Droves, a project that’s been in development since 2015 and that’s been workshopped with over 600 six-to-11 year-olds from across Tower Hamlets.

Director Tom Bowtell has let the kids’ imaginations run riot. They’re in charge of everything, from the storyline to the set-building. Don’t expect coherent narratives and socio-political comments – but there are wacky costumes, weird creatures, and angry gorillas.

You start out in a cardboard fort, being shouted at by small people. “What is the worst thing you’ve ever done?! What is the kindest thing you’ve ever done?! Sing me a song! Shut up, I’ve heard enough!”

Then, you are ushered through a series of rooms and challenges. Solve a riddle in a dingy maze of Christmas trees. Free a young girl stuck in a carpet. Soothe an irate ape.

CoLab Factory’s subterranean rooms are atmospherically dressed up, there’s spooky sound design, and the young performers all do themselves proud.

It’s not a revelatory piece of immersive theatre by any means, but there’s magic and madcap fun to be had in roaming the wilds of an eight year-old’s imagination.

In truth this is a show that’s more about the process than the performance, about the actors than the audience – and it’s heartening to know that so many children have been exposed to the variety and vibrancy of theatre at such a young age.

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Verdict
A smile-inducing piece of immersive theatre designed and performed by kids
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