What They Forgot to Tell Us ( And Other Stories) – BOLD Elephant, London

Reviewer: Rachel Kent

Creator: BOLD Company

Director: Sarah Davey-Hull

An autumn evening. Bus stop Z on Blackfriars Rd. Two women embrace. One of them is unmistakably a Victorian. Nearby is an unremarkable office block. Out of it runs another Victorian lady. This one appears to have a handlebar moustache.

For an explanation you will have to attend The Agency’s final Seminar Night, which takes place in this very office block, BOLD Theatre Company’s bold new home. The company’s opening show, What They Forgot to Tell Us (and Other Stories), is a highly entertaining immersive promenade experience.

Devised shows often exhibit less evidence of collaboration than of self-promotion. That is not the case here. Sarah Davey-Hull deftly directs a thought-out show in which every actor gets a moment in the fluorescent office light. The show itself feels thoroughly organised. The forty audience members are shepherded around the three-storey building in an admirably efficient and well-practised way. The guide, course leader Helen (Phoebe Naughton), is relentlessly upbeat even though she’s about to lose her job.

The event is supposed to be about stories – apparently attendees will be learning how to tell their ‘own story’. If that sounds alarmingly self-expository, don’t worry. All the staff have hi-jacked the seminars as their own talking therapy session.

‘Gothic Horror’ is rather more fun and more thrilling than many of the offerings at this year’s London Horror Festival. Seven masked strangers are shut in a room by themselves for just long enough to get nervous, and then purple-lipped Heather (Julia Pilkington) appears with an unsettling grin and a manic look in her eyes. ‘What if we were just trapped here for ever?’ she asks happily, failing to find the key to the locked door.

Two of the stories are about immigration. Youness Bouzinab as Ali sings snatches of remembered songs in a sonorous baritone, while telling the story of his grandfather. Next door Tom (Keeran Blessie) pours out his unhappiness to an audience who have almost certainly forgotten he’s an actor. Unfortunately, the walls are so thin that Bouzinab’s singing interrupts, breaking the illusion that each story is being told once. The ‘Poetry’ room, with drapes and cushions, feels more like a stage set than the others, but then Rhys Slade-Jones transports us to his Nan’s house where the carpet has ‘a rich pattern that’s only loved by poor people’, and we recognise the power of good story-telling.

It’s easy to miss the link between a clue thrown in early on and the gloriously funny period drama at the end. With a few props and clever lighting, Sammy Dowson has transformed a non-descript space into a deathbed scene in nineteenth century Paris (no detail is spared). There follows a solemn funeral in the Church of the Madeleine –where a lady lifts her skirt to reveal ….

Runs until 14 November 2021

The Reviews Hub Score

You won’t forget

The Reviews Hub - London

The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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