The Flabbergast Theatre members are the regular fringe creatives behind the puppet creations Boris and Sergey. This year, the creative team has devised an immersive piece entitled The Swell Mob, inviting guests to enter the world of an 1830s taproom. Upon entry, guests are thoughtfully provided with a drawstring bag of currency, which can be exchanged for gambling tokens or tickets for the bare-knuckle boxing match.
At a glance, it’s a heady affair with the basement venue decked out with a piano, dusty bookcases with snatches of Victoriana to decorate them and the scent of incense in the air. There is occasional cabaret but mostly the performers create oddball characters from the fringes of society to populate this subterranean world.
Success of course is often in the detail and there are several obvious concessions to the 21st century to make this world less convincing. The use of microphones for the cabaret performers is the most disappointing of these and some of the costumes and most of the wigs and make-up don’t bear close scrutiny.
These are probably moot points after your first flagon of porter however, and the boxing sequence is a rare moment of genuine drama that the whole room can engage in.