Red Palace review at the Vaults, London – ‘smart, sexy immersive theatre’
Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death – with some twisted fairytales thrown into the mix – Red Palace invites attendees to explore the halls of a tyrant prince at his masquerade ball.
Shotgun Carousel has expanded for its sophomore show after last year’s immersive dining cabaret, Divine Proportions. An optional immersive dining element has been introduced within the bigger show. This is a smart decision. Though there are actors doing walkabouts, the focus is on the truly excellent spread by MasterChef semi-finalist Annie McKenzie. The optional element also allows for price differentiation – a welcome approach to making immersive theatre more accessible – it’s £18 without food on a Wednesday.
After dinner guests explore the palace, where each room feels distinct and detailed, and is well supported by clever sound and light design. The whole cast is excellent; convincing, quick-witted, and charming. Particularly impressive are Emer Dineen as Dietrich-esque cabaret star Gretel, and Steffi Walker as a lovelorn but carnivorous mermaid.
Immersive theatre allows audience members to play with their identities for a few hours, and Cressida Peever’s script has fun getting a little meta about this. There is also plenty of enjoyable skewering of the heteronormative, patriarchy-friendly history of fairytales in Celine Lowenthal’s show.
Some small elements are a little rough around the edges, and a slightly longer final scene would up the emotional payoff, but this only very gently detracts from a show that is progressive in its goals, full of excellent performances, and a lot of fun. It’s refreshing to see an immersive theatre company questioning what stories should be told, and how.
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