Home » Reviews » Off West End » Oxbow Lakes, Old Printworks – Review

Oxbow Lakes, Old Printworks – Review

Presented by Dirty Market Theatre

Original, brilliantly funny, macabre, dark, bizarre, fantastical – get the idea?

Cons: The plot is difficult to follow in parts but just go with the flow; you’re in other-worldly realms here in Hoxton.

Our Verdict: Imagine Tim Burton directing an episode of Emmerdale whilst on an acid trip. Just go along with an open mind and let Dirty Market create their wonderful havoc. 

Credit: Jemima Yong
This Dirty Market production is in association with Camden People’s Theatre but is showing at an off-site venue. The location is the basement of an old print factory about a 10 minute walk from Old Street tube station. Straight away this starts to build a sense of curiosity and adventure which, as it turns out, is very appropriate. Upon, entering you will be enthusiastically greeted and directed to the makeshift bar downstairs. With drink in hand I sat amongst the rows of seats facing the long slim stage and waited for the entertainment to begin. From here on in things are difficult to describe. I had read up on the publicity blurb, watched the promo video, etc, so I knew that I was in for an unusual evening. 
The scene is set by the Narrator (Oscar Gibbs) telling us of Jack and Jill. A young couple who decide to have a baby, blithely ignorant of the impact it would have on their lives. The demands of parenthood test their relationship as tempers fray and events unravel. The child is having nightmares. Jack and Jill try comfort, logic and eventually shouting but he still insists that he sees witches. At this point we leave the realms of normality as the story brings us into the world of the witches. The child goes missing, having run into the woods by Oxbow Lakes; the parents alert the police and as they wait for news they get drawn into the lives of the local community. But this is no ordinary village.

You will be taken on a journey through nightmares by means of shadow work, songs, sinister characters and a giant puppet. This is a bubbling cauldron of fairy tales of the very Grimm variety, pantomime and nursery rhymes mixed with influences from The Wicker Man, Prime Suspect and Shockheaded Peter. Don’t get too comfortable in your seat because you will physically move around with the story which explains why this production couldn’t be staged in any formal auditorium. The scope of this factory space allows the Dirty Market team to run wild and they take full advantage.

The whole cast were outstanding without exception and some great characters were brought to life – Roxanne, the Dog Waitress, Alice and Lettice. A special mention has to go to Benedict Hopper who excelled with his renditions of Cody, Roz Clump, Bittersweet and Lemonzest. I’m grinning even now recalling it all and I’ll be thinking of him when I reach for the biscuit tin.

There are very few niggles but at times the storyline gets a bit vague and it can be difficult to figure out what’s going on. Despite that the entertainment keeps carrying you along and it doesn’t seem to matter too much. This is a disconcerting world of dreams where nothing makes much sense anyway. Unfortunately for the short ones of us in the audience the seating for the middle section of the show is all on a level surface so your view may be limited (one of the downsides to using a factory as a venue). There’s a similar issue with the final part which could possibly be remedied by some staging to raise the performers for a clearer view?

Beyond that words fail me and I can only advise you to go along and experience the theatrical ride for yourself.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

Oxbow Lakes runs at the Old Printworks on 17-20 Parr Street, N1 7ET until 28th September 2013.
Box office 08444 771000 or book online at http://www.dirtymarket.co.uk/

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