The Boy Who Climbed Out of His Face

  • Theatre
  • Outdoor theatres
Critics' choice
0 Love It

Immersive theatre has become big business since the Shunt collective clambered from the recesses of the live art netherworld in the late ’90s, their improbably successful London Bridge club night and string of singular standalone shows whetting the public appetite for the slick blockbuster offerings of Punchdrunk and ‘You Me Bum Bum Train’.

It’s probably doing Shunt a disservice to say that ‘The Boy Who Climbed Out of His Face’ is them coming back to collect some dues. Nonetheless, where 2011’s wildly over-ambitious ‘The Architects’ was a bit of a gruelling swing and a miss, ‘The Boy…’ takes things back to basics. It's a compact, accessible-ish project that’ll only take up £10 of your money and 45 minutes of your time, and odds are you'll be left wanting a splash more.

Staged in a complex made of shipping containers on a jetty near The O2 (it’s actually a new arts venture called The Jetty), ‘The Boy…’ is essentially a succession of surreal encounters in a succession of different rooms. I doubt it’s a comparison either party would appreciate, but it comes across as a bit like the mad, crack-addled uncle to the wholesome ‘Bum Bum Train’: each room you step into is a fabulously detailed new world, but one in which everything seems to have gone drastically wrong. Most of the performers you encounter wear horrifying latex masks, at least two sections are actively terrifying, and there’s a concerted effort to make things feel as awkward for the audience as possible.

I’m being rather opaque about the content here: because photos have been banned and the encounters that comprise the show are predicated on surprise, explaining what happens in forensic detail seems against the spirit of the thing.

But I enjoyed ‘The Boy Who Climbed Out of His Face’ for its imagination, its restraint, its striking visuals, its sardonic humour, and because I perhaps fancifully saw it as a brilliant send-up of the more anodyne encounter-based theatre that has sprung up in Shunt’s wake. For you it may just be a surreal funhouse full of latex-covered freaks, but there’s a lot to be said for that too, surely?

Average User Rating

2.9 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:4
  • 4 star:2
  • 3 star:2
  • 2 star:1
  • 1 star:5
4 people listening
3 of 3 found helpful

felt like 5 actors being given a space each, being told to disorientate their audience.

The space was really good, and the environments put together are interesting - but for me, there was no cohesive link between the 5 'acts', little character in each of the roles & just as you're ready to get going the whole thing came to a bit of an anti climax (for me).

But for £10 it's a nice way to spend 45 minutes - I don't know if it's worth centring a whole of half day around, but DO BRING CASH! The food is really good.

Somlo D
2 of 2 found helpful

Thanks Ben v, I can say less now. This is an incredibly, annoyingly amateur show in the worst sense. A perfect example of how NOT to do immersive theatre. Superficial, uninteresting, undeveloped, badly made (except the first joke, that I liked for millisecond). It feels like its was done by some enthusiastic teenagers who saw 3 performances in their life, and one was punchdrunk, so they decided to make theirs. 

Happy for those who enjoyed it. 

I recommend it to the people who gave money for the production, next time maybe they will give it to some talented beginners with vision, not to established dilettantes. 

AND YES most people who come to see your lovely show don't live in Abu Dhabi, so WE KNOW how does it feel to have a wet cold feet. 

Ben v
2 of 2 found helpful

Went the other night... really not impressed. We were kept waiting for an hour for our entry due to a power cut, and then it took far less than the advertised 45 minutes.

You pass through 6 'weird' spaces (shipping containers) in about 20 minutes, for £10. There are 4 actors in 'weird' masks acting 'weird'... with no discernible narrative, connection or theme... - you are told absolutely nothing. Just a sliver of story or theme would have been appreciated, because without that it was just random, forgettable nonsense. 

The 'characters' weren't even characters, just bog-standard 'crazies' in pointless masks. It seemed like they spent 5 mins preparing for their roles... "Who am I? Oh yes, I'm crazy and I talk crazy. I tilt my head to one side, and look... crazy, got it." Yawn. This is not David Lynch.

20 minutes later you are not "stupendously spat out" as Shunt claim, but casually exit the last space to find.. another 'weird' thing.. and you slowly realise that's it.. the end.

There's no sense anything is over, no drama.. you just see people putting their shoes back on and drifting off... and say to yourself 'er.. is that it?'.. there is no sense of a conclusion or finish.. you just wander off. My girlfriend and I laughed, as we couldn't believe that was it.

Time Out's review says "it'll only take up £10 of your money and 45 minutes of your time, and odds are you'll be left wanting a splash more." I don't know if they are sponsoring this production or something, but it is definitely NOT 45 minutes, and I wanted a lot more. I felt conned by that description.

They say "Each room you step into is a fabulously detailed new world" - Er, no. A bit of paint, some posters, sand, rubber masks, clanking sounds and a table do not make a fabulously detailed world.  

Having enjoyed Punchdrunk's The Drowned Man, I really was looking forward to it. The idea (using shipping containers as self-contained stages) is very interesting (with the right story, design, sound, etc) but is wasted completely here. I was so disappointed by what it COULD have been... It felt like a wanky conceptual art piece rather than any kind of theatre, though I'm sure hipsters will lap it up.

If you're happy to indulge some random, art-wankery for 20 minutes then you'll probably love 'The Boy Who Climbed Out Of His Face'. I wished my eyes had 'crawled out of my face' and stayed at home.

Joe L

Incredible. Absolutely hysterical for most of the time, with moments of sadness and mystery. Would highly recommend but only to the open-minded with a taste for the bizarre.

Charlie S

We really enjoyed this. Go with an open mind. It is not supposed to make sense. For a tenner it is well worth the money. I love Punkdrunk stuff but this is much more experimental. More please....

Charlie S

We really enjoyed this. Go with an open mind. It is not supposed to make sense. For a tenner it is well worth the money. I love Punkdrunk stuff but this is much more experimental. More please....


What a joke. This "immersive theatre experience" more closely resembled a badly done high school art project. I have no idea what Time Out watched, but it wasn't this. There was nothing remotely scary, terrifying, or even faintly startling (and I startle easily, I don't even go into Haunted Houses). 

The show was not innovative, not provocative, and not intellectually challenging in any sense. There was no overarching theme or plot either, as though someone had told a couple of teenagers that's it's "really avant-garde to create something that lacks coherency", when in reality it's just boring and poorly executed.

Oh and "45 minutes"? Yeah, if you choose to hang around the bar for another 25 minutes in the end, because the experience itself only takes 20 minutes, and much of that is spent standing around waiting for the next group to move through while an actor makes very little effort to do anything interesting with you.

I can sum up Shunt in one word: LAZY

Seb C

Cool setting, with a nice bar, food and atmosphere in general.

However, the show itself is definitely lacking. 45 minutes goes very quickly and you leave without much to discuss. The show is fairly creepy, fairly weird and fairly interesting, but no more than that. It definitely needed more of a story line, or if not, at least with a space like they have some more interesting tricks. For events like this, it would be nice to lose the feeling of being on a looped production, but as this was so linear, you never felt immersed in their world, as it never felt as if you could really interact with or influence the events.

I don't feel cheated for the ten pounds, but wouldn't go out of my way to recommend it. 


Great space & nice music, but very limited in actual content and value. Only a few performers giving a few minutes each of wacky caricature. Not very interesting and rushed. 

What happened to the edgy varied art at previous Shunt venues?? It used to be good value for money too. I'd rather have more content than a short performance and over-priced food and drink. There's hardly a shortage of arty types in London, bring them in !!  

Laura G

Loved the outdoors bar and the location... But the performance... !!  Ahh!

The first room we entered was obviously trying to creep us out a little, It was quite "budget" (which we expected for a tenner) but we were fairly excited entering the next room... However, every room after the first seemed like a holding room, we felt as though we were just waiting for the next space to become free to move on whilst some character repeated the same sentences over and over whilst staggering around.

There seemed to be no theme, no story and a group of characters who were all very similar and un-interesting.. and as I was expecting an ending to tie it all up, out I popped and it was over.

Such a shame, a lot could have been done with this, but I think they were trying too hard to be "arty" and "out there". *Yawn!*

Alan W

I thought this show was just a bit of fun, thought I can't argue with any of the negative posts below. Set against a great backdrop along the Thames. An opportunity to take a ride across the Emirates Air Line. Have something to eat and drink before the show. Loosen up - it's daft.

Alice R

I too disagree strongly with the negative reviews. This was so much fun, yes we had to wait around for about an hour but there was live music on the jetty and with the bars and food stalls there's enough to keep you occupied. It can get a bit chilly on the Jetty but I loved the way they gave people blankets, it added to the atmosphere. The show itself was quirky and kept you guessing, it wasn't amateur at all! All in all it's one of the best shows I've been to this year and I would definitely recommend the show to my friends!

Max H
0 of 2 found helpful

What an awesome location - surrounded by the Thames on an abandoned coal jetty turned theater/cocktail pop up… great idea and love what they have done with the space.  The production itself was great – interactive arty theater experience, if you like that thing and for £10 a steal!! Cocktail area as well.  Highly recommend.

Hope to see more here in the future! 

Adam L
0 of 3 found helpful

Couldn't disagree with the negative reviews more (although we didn't have a power-cut so perhaps that would have been annoying). My girlfriend and I loved it - we went to a show at 7:30 and it was a great experience from beginning to end - the venue is fantastic and at least 50% of the show is the setting - inside and out. I love surrealism but its really easy to do this stuff badly. It was like going to a dinner party with David Lynch. Lovely stuff.