Carnivale

If you've ever seen or read JB Priestley's An Inspector Calls you'll be broadly familiar with the message of UnWish Theatre's Carnivale, a dinner party with a difference where the flesh is gradually stripped from the bones of five over-privileged bright young things to reveal the moral murkiness beneath. To make this trip into the early-twentieth-century psyche extra special the audience is placed in the middle of the action, seated around a candlelit table with our decadent hosts and served their food, their drinks. One tip: if you're of a squeamish disposition, stick to the veggie option as the plot turns on the murder implicit in all meat, all jewellery, all high society.Its tone is quite hectoring, probably intentionally, as ringleader Alfie slams the table and shouts things like 'that's not champagne: it's BLOOD!' (This isn't an actual line.) All five performances are compellingly believable, particularly the brittle sparkiness of author Jenny, with the informality of the setting aiding the sense of real lives taking place around you; this reality is slightly hampered by an occasionally clunky script. The speed at which these socialites give up their shocking revelations of complicity was surprisingly snappy, meaning that these hand-wringing admissions of amorality felt a little overcooked. By contrast, the role of the audience until the very last speech was decidedly underdone; for an immersive show this was more like a tennis match, heads jerking from character to character as no one directly addresses us except for the ever-present waiters. Which isn't to say they definitely should, but our presence at the table could use a little clarification. Quibbles aside, it's a visual feast and a well-acted autopsy of a society in breakdown. With free wine!

Reviews by Richard O'Brien

The Blurb

Step into a world lit by candlelight and the flash of silver cutlery. Experience the grand carnivale of decadence and death as you dine at the birth of the twentieth century. Have you got the stomach for it? www.unwish.co.uk