Goosebumps Alive (The Vaults, London)

The Vaults in Waterloo play host to this immersive adaptation of the ’90s cult horror series

Young people today just don’t know how to grow up. Adult ball pools and cereal cafes, the Crystal Maze experience and the return of All Saints, are all used as evidence of our extended ‘adult-escence’, in which millennials distract themselves with nostalgia-driven pop-ups in order to forget the fact that they’ve approaching 30 and still can’t afford to buy a house. Goosebumps Alive, a new immersive theatre experience, fits the theory almost too neatly.

American author RL Stine published over 60 Goosebumps books – horror stories for children – in the '90s, and they became a world-conquering phenomenon. This all-new adult version (they run a kids’ show from 14 May) aims to tap into a potentially heady cocktail of fear, humour and nostalgia, giving hazily-remembered stories a new lease of life in a spooky environment.

Well, it looks good. The Vaults is the perfect venue – these dank subterranean tunnels are a touch creepy anyway – and designer Samuel Wyer (who was behind Alice’s Adventures Underground, another hit immersive show in the same space last year) has created a menacing fairground funhouse vibe with disorienting stripy corridors. The audience is split into groups to hear a selection of different macabre stories, and each take place within wittily designed spaces: step right inside a cuckoo clock or creep down to a basement full of plants that would give The Little Shop of Horrors‘ Audrey II a run for its money… 360-degree environments are created with detail, flare and care.

Sadly, the stories themselves are neither funny enough to really make you laugh, nor spooky enough to really fright. American co-writers Tom Salamon and Gabriel Greene have produced camply broad shlock-horror sketches, allowing Stine’s kids stories to mature into Tales of the Unexpected things that can happen to twenty-somethings. Couples row; greed gets the better of people; inanimate objects are imbued with mysterious powers. There are many fun performances – and a couple that are way over-egged – but the whole thing lacks any real sense of peril, and the pace often flags.

Goosebumps Alive boasts music by cabaret outfit The Tiger Lillies, on suitably cadaverous form, but even this enjoyably growly interlude was preceded by momentum-deadening audience interaction featuring glockenspiels. Similarly, a big finish boasting genuinely uncanny masks and puppets ambles when it ought to pounce. I’ve been in pantomimes that made me more nervous about being picked on.

There are several story pathways for the different groups; as a ‘Rat’, I may have got a dud run. Still, some of the crowds around me seemed to be having a fine time whipping themselves up into a fearful froth. If you’re a child of the '90s who grew up loving Goosebumps, by all means go with a gang on a Friday night, reminisce about the books, eat a ‘Say Cheese and Die’ toastie and get a few Monster Blood cocktails down you… then the whole thing will be a giggly bit of fun. But general reader, beware: you’re not in for a scare.

Goosebumps Alive runs at the Vaults until 5 June.