Thursday, 3 October 2019

REVIEW: Red Palace at the Vaults

Red Palace, concept of Laura Drake Chambers, is an immersive theatrical experience underground in the Waterloo Vaults. For a VIP experience, you can start the evening with a mouth-watering 4 course meal curated by Annie McKenzie and expertly designed cocktails. The banquet, held on the Mezzanine level of the Palace, is an excellent atmosphere and a great way to throw yourself into the show. The food is not themed or linked to the show in any way -apart from a toffee apple dessert- which makes it appear more as a money-making scheme rather than to deepen your involvement with the performance.

Revolving around famous fairytales, Red Palace loosely connects main characters to this morbid, secretive story. Characters begin to twist and twirl around the tables to introduce themselves and spill secrets to the guests. We are then introduced to the foul-mouthed Prince of the palace -a vibrant drag-king- who has invited guests to celebrate his 1000thday of reign. This day is also when the prophecy of his death will become true; a ‘woman’s sickness’ and ‘red cloak’ will avenge him and end his power. After an eery dance by women draped in red and a captivating silks performance, we are then welcomed to explore the many facets of the mysterious palace. 

The doors open and we are naturally split into groups to discover different happenings in the palace. Each set is magnificently designed by Maeve Black; the whole venue is imaginative, and you are completely immersed in this fairytale. For the most part, the scenes are interesting and exciting as you find out about the Prince’s past and what might come of the prophecy. The performers have some flexibility to improvise but their performances are scripted (written by Cressida Peever). At times, we were let down by over-acting and I was disappointed that the highlight of Snow’s Boudoir and Grettel in the Gingerbread House was the lip-syncing. Director Celine Lowenthal could have made more of the talent and opportunity this production gives. Other moments were technically impressive, for example the Séance, and contribute to real crowd-pleasing moment.

Everything was very slick; the audience were smoothly led (aside from the
intimidating Wolf) between scenes and there was only a brief moment when I was unsure where I was meant to be. The dramatic finale is thrilling and keeps you on your toes - Michelle Etherington’s lighting design builds the tension. Red Palace does end quite abruptly but the space immediately becomes a dancing area for you to continue drinking and dancing. The overall concept is spectacularly executed; yet more could have been done with the narrative to tie all of these characters together. There was a bizarre mix of medieval vs. modern themes which loses the appeal. It is not theatre at its best, but I would certainly recommend for groups to attend this show for a fun night out. 

Review by Hannah Storey

Rating: ★★★★

Seat: Immersive | Price of Ticket: £50 (VIP Dining Ticket)
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