Theatre Souk, the latest project to take over Theatre Delicatessen’s Picton Place headquarters, is proof, if proof were needed, that necessity really is the mother of invention. Wander through the echoing former offices of Uzbekistan Airways and discover interactive, aerial and one-on-one theatre, as well as cabaret, puppetry and Chekhov, all of it based loosely around the theme of money.
The ‘souk’ concept is exciting and well executed: pay £7 to enter the ‘marketplace’, then barter for tickets to each individual piece of work.
Upon setting foot in the building, I was invited to take part in Priceless, an interactive show where the audience become contestants in a TV gameshow gone bad. The price? £3. I offered £2. Done. The show doesn’t conclude anywhere near as strongly as it begins, but 20 minutes of being bossed around in this funny and engaging piece put me in just the right mood for more surprising and inventive theatre.
You’d need to be very clever with your scheduling in order to squeeze everything in during just one visit to Theatre Souk, and I didn’t manage to catch every company, but there are a couple of pieces I’d recommend putting at the top of the ‘to see’ list.
Flabbergast Theatre’s potty-mouthed, Bunraku-style puppets will make you laugh out loud as they bicker over their chips in Puppet Poker Pit. On the third floor, Uzbekistan Airways sees a dissatisfied employee turn his office into a beach scene, and then deal with the consequences when his boss finds out, while CurvingRoad presents an extract from Laura Wade’s Breathing Corpses. Both shows offer sensitive performances, as well as set designs that are impressive in their commitment and imaginative scope.
And don’t miss Between Life and Nowhere (or The Stairwell), which takes place on Theatre Delicatessen’s original 1930s stairwell. This promenade piece offers beautiful, broad brushstrokes on the subjects of love and loss, and despite not entirely hitting the mark in terms of narrative clarity, it is a lovely thing to behold, with its aerial displays and sweeping Antony & the Johnsons-inspired soundtrack.
Not every experiment is as fun or fulfilling as some of the shows I’ve name-checked here, but as a whole, Theatre Souk offers a tremendous experience of innovative and experimental theatre and a fantastic evening out.