There are two ways of viewing ‘Journey to the Underworld’ – the latest event to take place in Pedley Street ‘station’ (actually a railway arch venue with a vintage train carriage, rather than a fully Oyster card-worthy commuter platform). And, more than most, how you approach the evening will affect whether you come out of Funicular Productions' newest venture satisfied or just mildly bemused.
From one angle, tonight's entertainment is primarily a fancy meal, with a bit of dinner theatre thrown in for good measure. Before you enter the carriage itself, you're greeted with a bar serving seven deadly sins-themed cocktails (all dispensed by barmen in Grim Reaper costumes – natch). And then, when you get to the meal itself... Oh, the meal. Designed by 'Masterchef' finalist Louisa Ellis, it's an immaculate, beautiful and unbelievably delicious four courses, served by lamplight and plated like a high-end restaurant.
If you're coming at tonight from a theatrical perspective, however, then things aren't quite so cut and dried. The premise of the evening goes thus: On our journey into the fires of hell (which is illustrated by some bobbing red scenery outside our windows), we're greeted by a bedraggled man who's been kept a prisoner for years. He also has a captured bride – don't they all – who he's desperate to reunite with. Will they eventually break free from their evil captor and run into the sunset of true love? It's a tried-and-tested tale, and that's fine.
But it's the execution that raises eyebrows. Like a comedy halloween panto, we get a stumbling zombie bride attempting to escape through doors while audience members are made to try and restrain her. At one point, we're given blackout masks and await our horrifying fate. Someone blows in my ear. Another waves a bit of fabric across my head. It's about as terrifying as going around the London Dungeon with all the lights on.
All of this makes for a night of harmless fun, and there's nothing wrong with that. But the combination of the two elements – high-end dining and low-end lolz – is a strange one. I left smacking my lips and scratching my head. If you're in the mood for a light-hearted diversion alongside your guinea fowl, then ‘Journey...’ will do just fine. If you're searching for the next Punchdrunk, you might want to recalibrate your expectations.