The Vaults Waterloo – until 25 September
Guest Reviewer – Terry Eastham
The N3N virus has hit and had a devastating effect on the planet. Few have survived and those lucky ones that did are now housed in a government bunker sealed off from the outside world. This then is the synopsis for Bonnie Adair’s new immersive theatre experience, “Never Ending Night” running at the Waterloo vaults.
A you arrive at the Vaults, soldiers fully kitted out and wearing NBC (nuclear, biological and chemical warfare) suits get the audience into line and make it plain that the army are in charge of this operation. We pass through decontamination and quarantine and are then kitted out in white suits and face masks then sent into what felt like a long wide street where in the semi-darkness, various bodies could be seen lying on the floor of gently shuffling about. A team of army personnel started approaching each of the people and those that were unaffected were taken away to a bunker where, eventually we followed them and passing through a door to time, we entered the bunker a year on from the initial rescue.
Once inside we saw how the 10 survivors we had seen being rescued had moved on with their lives, and this is where I stop telling you anything about the plot as, with all immersive theatre, it is something that needs to be experienced first hand.
Having been to Punch Drunk and survived a recent zombie apocalypse, I was really looking forward to “Never Ending Night” with a mixture of fear and excitement, and the opening really didn’t disappoint as we went through the whole decontamination routine and were sent into the ‘street’. Really effective use of lighting moved the audience around the street as the trio of soldiers same and rescued the people with kind words and friendly faces hiding a determination that they would be rescued whether they wanted to be or not. This led me, and my warped imagination, to think that there was something sinister going on with these rescues and I was looking forward to seeing what was happening in the bunker.
Unfortunately, this was where the show really failed to live up to expectations for me. The bunker itself was laid out nicely and looked as if it had been occupied for a while but the use of a mezzanine level, meant audience members were constantly running up and down the metal stairs – and making a heck of a lot of noise – to keep up with things. There were some really lovely small scenes to see as members of the cast interacted with each other but, with a couple of exceptions, you didn’t really get know enough about them, which was a pity as from what I did see, there some pretty fascinating characters there and the talented cast worked really well to bring them to life. However, forgetting that, bits of the story were pretty good though I did think the ending was a little bit too easy.
The other issue I had was with the location. While The Vaults is an amazing place, even allowing for the willing suspension of disbelief essential to all theatre productions, but it was difficult to accept that these ten were potentially the only survivors with the rumble of trains overhead and, even worse, the intrusive noise of loud music from the bar next door making its way into the bunker.
So, all in all, my assessment of “Never Ending Night” is that it is an interesting show which has a lot of potential. The opening sequences built up a superb tension which, unfortunately, wasn’t sustained through to the end. if you have never been to immersive or promenade theatre before then this is a lovely way to get yourself into these genres.