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Review: Behind closed doors, Spitalfields

The streets between Spitalfields and Brick Lane are a warren of period-perfect Victorian houses. They also contain the half dozen scenes that combine to create Behind Closed Doors, a promenade show that has you exploring the different locations. Armed with your mobile phone and headphones, you start by picking the kind of experience you want. Mischief? Love? Sensuality? Make your choice, and a map on your phone leads you to the first scene. It might be the window of one of the houses, which you peer through to see a violin maker who constructs musical instruments out of pieces…

Summary

Rating

Good

A promenade show that’s perfect for anyone who’s ever wondered what goes on behind closed doors.

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The streets between Spitalfields and Brick Lane are a warren of period-perfect Victorian houses. They also contain the half dozen scenes that combine to create Behind Closed Doors, a promenade show that has you exploring the different locations.

Armed with your mobile phone and headphones, you start by picking the kind of experience you want. Mischief? Love? Sensuality? Make your choice, and a map on your phone leads you to the first scene. It might be the window of one of the houses, which you peer through to see a violin maker who constructs musical instruments out of pieces of junk; a pole dancer limbering up; a so-perfect mother who’s just a little too fond of the Chardonnay.

You hear the stories of these people both in their own words, and from the perspective of their neighbours, who rarely have a good word to say about them. After each monologue ends, you choose which strand to follow next. Some scenes are projections on window blinds, so you just see silhouettes dancing across the windows; others are tiny models viewed through letterboxes.

It’s a touching, engaging show about communities and their lack of personal interaction. Suspicion, misunderstanding and fear drive neighbours apart; it’s easier to call the police than to make personal contact.

The scenes are well played, but since different audience members will be watching them at different starting times, they’re evocative tableaux rather than enactments of the audio you’re listening to. One or two could do with a bit more thought: the instrument maker toys with parts of a dismantled violin, but he should be surrounded by the junk he collects to assemble his more fanciful endeavours. Staring into space and jotting words down on a sheet of paper doesn’t convey artistic creativity the way handling broken pieces of metal would.

Since you choose your path, you’re likely to complete the show – it takes about 45 minutes – seeing only half the action. If you book an early slot you can go round a second time, making different choices and seeing the remaining locations. Even going round twice, though, we found there was a whole scene we’d completely failed to discover; but then this is inevitable with choose-your-own-adventure stories.

Developed specifically to take place during the pandemic, with social distancing, this show has returned for a second outing. The theatres may now be open again, but there’s always room for something as innovative as this.

Script, direction and set design by: Chusi Amoros, Marie Klimis and Dajana Trtanj
Music and sound design by: Nicola Tchang
Produced by: 27 Degrees
Booking until: 9 October

About Steve Caplin

Steve is a freelance artist and writer, specialising in Photoshop, who builds unlikely furniture in his spare time. He plays the piano reasonably well, the accordion moderately and the guitar badly. Steve does, of course, love the theatre. The worst play he ever saw starred Charlton Heston and his wife, who have both always wanted to play the London stage. Neither had any experience of learning lines. This was almost as scarring an experience as seeing Ron Moody performing a musical Sherlock Holmes. Steve has no acting ambitions whatsoever.