The year is sometime in the 1800s, it seems, or else 2018. The venue, a seedy taproom, or the basement of an Assembly George Square building, again, depending on how you look at it. And the experience, something like you’ve never seen before. Even among the varied repertoire of Flabbergast Theatre, The Swell Mob’s company, this show is a daringly unique experience, and one that surpasses any expectation you could have as you shuffle into that dim, mysterious room.
A perfectly bizarre, uncomfortable, unmissable show.
The Swell Mob is an immersive theatre show where your experience relies completely on your interactions with the actors, so no attendee will have the same one. Instead, it’s your choice whether you engage or lurk on the sidelines, just taking in the atmosphere. Even if you choose minimal interaction, the atmosphere is fairly spectacular. A total sensory experience, The Swell Mob transforms their space believably into the perfect 19th century aesthetic. And if you are feeling awkward, which is natural in the beginning, every one of the actors is deft at drawing you into the story. The best experience of The Swell Mob can be achieved by buying in completely, however, and asking as many questions of the actors as possible. The show is something of a mystery, often leaving one with more questions than answers. But the underlying mood of deliciously compelling unease is made all the better by talking as much as you can to the cast.
What’s going on at The Swell Mob taproom is never completely clear. You’re given “money” at the entrance which you are encourage to gamble with, even as a evangelical waif shouts at you and her peers that gambling isn’t right. You’re entranced into conversations by eager ne’re-do-wells, but they won’t give you a straight answer about who that creepy puppet is and why they’re so afraid of him. The triumph of The Swell Mob is it’s entire cast, with every character complex and rich in backstory, and even though they may never tell you what’s going on, they are masterful at making you frustratingly curious. And with the added benefits of impressive puppetry and artful physical theatre, The Swell Mob is a perfectly bizarre, uncomfortable, unmissable show.