Abandon hope, all ye who enter here. This promenade spin on Dante’s ‘Inferno’, which walks us through the nine circles of hell in a run-down, reclaimed arts centre in Peckham, proves a fitting punishment for indiscriminate immersive theatre fans. Its 90 minutes last an eternity.
Actually, it starts with a tiny flicker of promise, as your life segues into Limbo unnoticed. Sat in the venue’s bar, you’re pestered by social irritants: bickering couples, chat-up merchants and personal-space-invaders. A maintenance man bashes at the radiators. According to his shirt, he’s Virgil – our guide for the evening.
Through the polystyrene gates – George Osborne’s got nothing on this budget hell – are eight dramatic installations that bring a modern twist to Dante’s deadly sinners. The lustful are hooked up to virtual reality flirting machines. The gluttonously fame-hungry get belittled by red-carpet interviewers. The greedy sign themselves away to loan sharks.
However, each layer is more obscurely allegorical than the last. The devised scenes are so determinedly metaphorical that the drama drops out of them altogether. Virgil’s introductions – though well delivered by a deadpan Chris Leaney – are bloated, pretentious verses more concerned with sounding good than helping us identify quite what we’re watching.
Roderick D Morgan’s production is made all the worse by a shoddy bin-bag-based design and sloppy journey planning. Two shouty scenes played simultaneously in the same room just drown each other out, and cramming nine people into a tiny men’s toilet makes it an unbearable furnace. Run like hell.
By Matt Trueman