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Theatre Review: The Swell Mob @ COLAB Factory


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Drinking in a haunted 1800s bar tavern isn’t a typical way to spend a weekday evening, but that’s exactly what myself and a rather bemused colleague found ourselves doing one Thursday in May.

Image courtesy of Flabbergast Theatre

I wholeheartedly support the concept of Swell Mob, a Flabbergast Theatre production – a spooky 1800s immersive play, filled with puppetry and cabaret? Yes please. Unfortunately though, I don’t think the play really delivers on all of its promises.

The plot is haphazard at best. It’s difficult to keep track of what’s happening, and the cast doesn’t draw enough attention to the key moments that are required to drive the story along.

A large part of this problem is the venue. The space is quite large and the play is set across two floors with lots of different rooms, and whilst this makes the set fun to explore, it also means that it’s incredibly easy to miss an important plot development.

The play culminates in all the characters coming together in some kind of trance, and then the lights come on and we are told to finish our drinks. It’s quite bewildering, and the ending doesn’t really tie the experience together or provide much closure. Outside, some of the audience gather together to try and decipher what even happened – there is a general feeling of dissatisfaction about the whole experience.

The costumes and the set, however, are very well put together and create a unique, otherworldly atmosphere. The attention to detail is remarkable and the production company really makes the most of the space, creating little passageways and multiple rooms that are clearly decorated with a lot of care. This successfully adds to the illusion of being in a magical 1800s tavern, and is the real highlight of the production.

The Swell Mob by Flabbergast Theatre is running at COLAB Factory, South London, until 25th August. Find out more and buy tickets here.

Lead image courtesy of Flabbergast Theatre

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