You know those moments where you hid behind the sofa while watching Doctor Who as a child? Well with The Crash of The Elysium there’s no sofa to hide behind as you’re thrown deep into the midst of a real life adventure.
Like any good adventures there are elements of surprise around every corner and therefore any review needs to tread carefully so as to not upset The Doctor by revealing too much.
It all starts pleasantly enough as we are guided round an exhibition on the 19th Century steamship the SS Elysium. As our guide talks us through the various historical artefacts it all seems a rather genteel way to spend the morning but in true Doctor Who fashion we’re soon rushed off to help battle aliens and save the world.
By the time we’re clad in decontamination suits and protective masks it’s a frantic race against the clock to help the Doctor and save the world.
To reveal more would spoil the enjoyment of future participants but Punchdrunk have created a totally immersive world that manages to encase its participants in a totally believable scenario. Light, darkness and sound combined with Livi Vaughan’s impressive sets takes us deep into the heart of the action. This isn’t a show you can sit down and observe, participation is key to enjoyment, oh and saving the world doesn’t feel too bad either. The sheer scale and detail of the operation is difficult to comprehend until you’re fully immersed and there’s a feeling that a second visit is needed to capture the detail missed first time around.
Tom MacRae’s script includes plenty for both fans and those new to the franchise to enjoy, while Felix Barrett’s direction is suitably fast paced, keeping us on our toes as we run from location to location. There’s also fine work from the cast, perfectly in character throughout, interacting with the participants and keeping the tension at the required level throughout. That interaction means that no two shows are ever the same and that freshness shows in the performances.
Punchdrunk are performing various permutations of the show depending on the age of the audience but here, surrounded by a group of 25 ten year old school children the frights seem scary enough. There’s nearly as much fun to be had watching the reaction of the children and there’s no finer plaudit than an overheard response dismissing a suggestion that the show is only pretend with a firm ‘of course it’s real’.
Embrace your inner child, peer out from behind the sofa and spend an hour in the world of Doctor Who. Where else could you get the opportunity to save the world before lunchtime – just whatever you do, don’t blink!
Photo: Mike Kwasniak Originally written for The Public Reviews