Parabolic Theatre are a relatively new company, operating their show out of the CoLab Factory venue near Borough. Given the great immersive gaming experiences I’ve had in that venue, I was curious to try out one of the more mainstream immersive productions on offer. Morningstar sounded intriguing – at least what little I could glean from social media, reviews and the ticket page, since they keep the details fairly vague.
The experience started a few hours before the scheduled start time, when we received emails containing additional material to read. I generally like that kind of slow build-up, but there was a *lot* of reading to get through. Admittedly, it wasn’t critical to the performance but, for me, it was a fairly important part of the experience, and expecting people to get through it during a workday was a little bit ambitious.
The show proper started with us being greeted by staff from the fictional institute who set the scene for the story ahead. They did well with the awkward situation of having some people who’d read the preparatory email and others who hadn’t – covering the highlights quickly but also introducing other parts of the story in more detail. It went on slightly longer than I’d have liked, but that fitted reasonably well with the character doing the briefing, so it didn’t hurt the overall performance.
Soon enough, though, we were on to the main experience, which was effectively split into two parts. The highlight for me was the exploration of the space. Having visited the venue on several occasions, I already knew the layout of the building, but they’d made enough changes using temporary partitions to keep it interesting. Throughout the space there were curios to investigate and documents to read. It was particularly enjoyable encountering these objects in this discovery phase and then seeing them reappear in the later, more theatrical, portion of the show.
When the exploratory stage ended and the “acting” started, I felt it lost its way a little. I’m not really sure what they were trying to portray, but it felt more like interpretive dance than a story and, when it was over, I couldn’t really tell you what had happened or what I’d experienced. Yes, there were connections with the audience and moments of complicity where we were drawn into their world, but most of the time I was just watching on, unsure of what it was meant to represent.
Soon enough we headed back upstairs for the end of the performance. Except I’m not really sure when the performance finished. Perhaps that’s part of the experience – leaving you wondering where the experience ended and the real world started again but, for me, this needed a defining moment where you had some form of enlightenment. I’m not experienced when it comes to immersive theatre, so perhaps that desire for certainty is more of a failure on my part than theirs.
Morningstar started well but, in my opinion, lost its way as it progressed. The initial scene-setting, the intimate nature of the event and the unfettered exploration of the space all worked well, but the central elements lacked story and the experience petered out leaving most of our group feeling a little perplexed.
We ate at Al Masar, a Lebanese restaurant just along the road near Borough station. The food was good – huge prawns in the mixed fish grill and a delicately spiced houmous shawarma. I’d recommend this if you’re in the area.
Full disclosure: I wasn’t charged for these tickets. That doesn’t influence the review – you can read more on the About page.