April 07, 2016
“Reader beware, you’re in for a scare…” There can’t be many twentysomethings who can’t tell you where those words come from. The answer is, of course, Goosebumps, the phenomenally successful children’s horror book series from R.L. Stine, which is only behind Harry Potter in terms of children’s book sales. As such, this new theatre event taking place in The Vaults near London Waterloo is designed to bring to life some of Stine’s most memorable stories including Say Cheese and Die! And Stay Out of the Basement! We popped along to the very first preview to see what horrors the evening has in store…
The idea of staging an immersive theatrical experience around the Goosebumps stories is such a great one that it’s surprising it has never been done before. With the release of the Jack Black fronted movie earlier this year, it seems that R.L Stine's works are experiencing something of a resurgence and it appears those in the creative industries are suddenly realising just how large the audience for his brand of horror really is! Coming from the same set designer who so memorably brought Alice in Wonderland to The Vaults last year with Alice’s Adventures Underground, this is a production that isn’t necessarily meant to scare as much as provide an enjoyable, at times slightly unnerving experience. Anyone who remembers the Goosebumps books will recall that there were a lot of fun and cool ideas in amongst the scares so think of it more as an extremely entertaining evening than a terrifying one.
The show has been designed for kids to enjoy too – this is simply titled Goosebumps Kids – whilst the more adult show is reserved for the evening. Though children can attend, they have to be with someone over the age of 18. Nothing we saw that evening is likely to harm, though there is a bit of swearing, blood and adult themes thrown in to the mix. We don’t remember that on the CBBC TV series... But then again, we don't recall Ryan Gosling being in it either and yet according to IMDb, he was!
Once into the Vaults, you’re taken to a bar, wherein the room gets a little crowded. Surely not all of you will be heading to the same places? This question is answered within a few minutes, when the group of a hundred or so is split into four. You each carry a card with a symbol of an animal (crow, snake, spider and rat) and dutifully follow your sign throughout the experience. It’s fair to say that there may be one image that is better to receive than all the others but it’s hard to know just yet which that one may be. What can I say though is that although the website advertises nineteen possible rooms, we only witnessed seven.
The evening takes on the form of a man who is having to trouble with voices in his head (again, this may be different depending on your timeslot, we were at 8.30pm) and you are lucky enough to venture into his mind to see what exactly he is experiencing. As it happens, it turns out that he is enduring imaginings which include a time turning cuckoo clock, a typewriter that can predict the future, a child who is apologetic about something she did to her sibling and a curious incident involving a lift. Without a doubt, the most effective of these first four tales was being pushed into a lift – the tension is palpable amongst the group as you expect to be scared and sure enough, you leave being more than happy to get out of there!
When it comes to scaring people at events, it tends to be a mixture of costumes and jump scares that are the most effective. We have often down Halloween entertainment for events and have even blogged about ideas to use. There is something extremely disconcerting about the masks used in this production, which hail from Ministry of Masks, a London-based art collective who allow some of their works to be shown on the walls of the bar before you enter the experience. As we continue on from the lift, the more these masks begin to show themselves. We find ourselves in HorrorLand for a memorable song and dance experience (don’t forget to play your glockenspiel!) before moving on to the pinnacle of our experience, which was taken direct from the famous Stay Out of the Basement!, a tale about a botanist who is up to no good in the basement of his house. After our tale, we were then pushed together with the other three groups to experience the true finale of the tale, where we find out what happens to the man who has been experiencing voices throughout. People who hate clowns need not apply.
All in all, the evening is a fun one and it’s clear to see that the production is impressively staged. Various hooded figures traipse you between rooms and it’s admirable how the maze of rooms is put together. You never quite know where you are within the building and although sounds do permeate through from other productions, which can occasionally be distracting and make it difficult to hear the actors in your own room, it certainly makes you question just what exactly you’re going to experience later on…
The acting is all very good from those involved and the stages are fantastically put together, especially our foray into the basement set. That being said, we were frustrated not to visit the stages of some of our favourite tales including Say Cheese and Die! and The Blob That Ate Everyone, especially when a couple of the stories were a tad lacklustre. It means that if you want to enjoy the entire show, you’ll have to return once again for another £32.50. That being said, what you do get for your money for one ticket is a fun and entertaining route into R.L. Stine’s world and remind you just how fun the theatre can be.
For more information about Goosebumps Alive and to buy tickets, feel free to visit the official website.
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