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The Crash of the Elysium (MIF - Salford)

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
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Immersive promenade theatre either excites you or it's your idea of hell. The Crash of The Elysium manages to thrill even those who cringe and balk at the notion of getting involved. This element is the show's strength, as this family show produced by Punchdrunk as part of the Manchester International Festival is exhilarating and provides you with a full on hour of pure escapism. And the fact that the venue is the BBC's new MediaCity Studios in Salford makes it even more authentic.

The less you know, the better. But the likelihood is that if you are a Doctor Who fan, you have done your research. You will enjoy the experience far more though if you do as I did, simply go with it. From the minute you arrive and are shown round a gallery by a character, your heart is in your mouth - as you know that something wicked this way comes.

Once this tranquil scene is interrupted, the action never lets up and unlike many family productions, Punchdrunk manage to scare the living daylights out of the adults also. Children though, hold the key this production's success though, as they literally are invited to lead the narrative and watching them rise the the challenge is incredibly poignant. Every emotion is explored here and even though I would advise that children under eight should not be unaccompanied during the search, the fun element is once the scares die down, the look on their faces suggests "Can we go again?"

From an adult's perspective, the boiler suits and gas masks in the balmy hot Summer become uncomfortable and denouement seems slightly rushed. These are minor quibbles though, as Punchdrunk's Felix Barrett, Tom McRae and Doctor Who writer Steven Moffat have crafted something quite special and there is simply nothing like it anywhere else. All of the performers, special effects teams, sound and set designers deserve high praise as the space they create is  out-of-this-world.

It may seem like the BBC's old fashioned The Adventure Game to begin with, but if you surrender and use your imagination like your young companions, Elysium has a vice-like grip which leads to excitement, scares and wonderment.


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