The Architects – Review

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The Architects

At the tender age of 14 I was to experience my first piece of theatre. The National is most people’s first point of call, but my youth theatre tutor dragged us on the Central line and pushed us down an alley in Bethnal Green. This was almost 14 years ago when E2 was more BNP than the VIP hipsterville it is today. That night my mind exploded and with it the possibilities of what theatre could be – my first ever show was Shunt.

Last week I was dragged on the Jubilee line and pushed down an alley in Bermondsey to see Shunt’s latest offering The Architects. This is their first show since closing their space in London Bridge that saw many a messy night of anarchic performance and regrettable hangovers.

The Architects is full of Shunt tricks that any veteran of their work should have adapted to, but still I find myself lost, confused and trying to work out what is going on – I feel like I’ve woken up in the home bit of Ikea on a Bank Holiday in 1984 – all this before the performance has even begun. Eventually I find myself on a cruise ship (obviously) surrounded by people I think are plants – it turns out they are just punters but the Shunt experience leaves its audience looking suspicious so everyone looks like they are up to no good.

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As a company they do environment well. At no point do I not believe I’m on a cruise ship and half the battle of then being able to warp my mind is done. The performances are strong, frightening and worryingly accurate. Dressed in fussy bits of awkward grey and managing to sneak up to you in the dark – not in a London Dungeon way, more Are You Being Served? on ritalin.

Shunt’s sense of humour shines through in this piece. I can’t help but unleash my socially unacceptable laugh, but as humour is subjective, it’s lost on some of the patrons that have booked this via the National Theatre thinking it might be a bit like One Man Two Guvnors.

Just as you are getting comfortable and think you’re clever enough to work out what is happening next you’re wrong and that’s all I want to give away. Like the uncomfortable teenager that was made to sit in a room and have his head scrambled, I feel the same way as an adult well versed in this kind of work. Shunt still has the ability to make me feel at home and uncomfortable at the same time. The Architects is subtly subversive and wonderfully wrong. If you’re bored of the word ‘immersive’ then go watch Shunt reinvent the genre, again.

4/5 stars.


The Architects runs until the 2nd of Feb –

About Scottee

Scottee is a 27-year-old performer, broadcaster, director and writer from Kentish Town, North London. He is an associate artist with the Olivier award winning company Duckie, and the iconic Roundhouse. Creator of the talent show Burger Queen, variety show Camp and live art collective Eat Your Heart Out. Follow @scotteescottee