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Las Maravillas: The Lost Souls of Mictlan
The Rose Lipton Building
29th October 2014


Publicity image for Las Maravillas: The Lost Souls of Mictlan

Photography provided by The Dreamery

If you grew up with Richard O'Brien darting around the Aztec Zone like a madman, crooning little ditties and telling the contestants about the problems with his Mumsey, you've just about got the feel of Las Maravillas: The Lost Souls of Mictlan. It's a piece of - well, promenade theatre is probably the best description for it - running as part of this year's London Horror Festival. Appropriately for a show about a maze, I struggled to find it, but if you head for the De Beauvoir Estate, The Rose Lipton Building is the community centre bang in the middle.

A guide takes us into the basement, where we navigate our way through the darkness, stumbling from paving stone to paving stone. I'm sure it's normally a very dull, unexciting space, but it's been sectioned off to create nine different rooms and a series of claustrophobic connecting corridors. Cobwebs hang from the ceiling - amongst other things - and strobe lighting disorientates. If you don't come as a group of friends, you'll certainly leave well-acquainted - the audience frequently bump into each other, grabbing and groping, often trying to keep their balance and sometimes out of fear. Personally, I didn't find this frightening, but I'm a somewhat jaded critic, and some of my group (not plants!) were genuinely unsettled. Make of that what you will. I don't think there's enough interaction for this to be a piece of immersive theatre, and I don't think it's scary, but it remains an intriguing concept, with a lot to commend.

The scale of the company's ambition can only be applauded. A great deal of thought has gone into the design and layout; this amount of budget on props is rare on the fringe circuit (crowdfunding to thank for that). Set designers Lora Smart, Sophie Ansell, Amy Strike and Maike Koch really have had a lot of fun with this piece, such as with the "tall" and "low" passageways. Director Dominic Jones has a clear vision, but perhaps where some finesse is missing is in the logistics. In the final area of the Underworld, we're beckoned to talk to a mysterious crone, one by one. With groups of up to 10 people making their way through the maze with only a 10 minute gap between them, it's just too time-consuming.

It's also not a great deal of fun for those in the group who haven't yet had their turn with the mysterious woman - there is projected video playing, but really, this last room is just standing around. Perhaps some kind of interactive challenge could be provided - although perhaps now I'm just getting carried away with thoughts of the Crystal Maze. I imagine this room is also a bit of an anti-climax for those who don't talk to the woman at all before moving on. There were a few members of my group who missed out here, hurried on by the voices of another group catching up with us.

I do like the idea of buying a ticket for a particular night, dropping in and then waiting for the next slot but inevitably this results in peak periods where people end up waiting and getting frustrated. There were clearly some audience members who didn't understand the ticketing system, and this resulted in tempers being frayed. Given the scale of the production, this is part of the learning curve, and as the week continues, the company do seem to be sharpening up their practices.

If the thought of seeing Knightmare: Live appeals, then this is right up your street (if you can indeed find the street). This isn't what I could class as "serious" theatre, nor is it terrifying stuff, but there's something inherently appealing about the idea of moving from one room to another, with no idea of what lies in the next. The adventurers and explorers of the 90s will love this - but just like the shows which have clearly influenced this production, it's a bit Marmitey.

Las Maravillas: The Lost Souls of Mictlan opened on 28th October and runs until 1st November 2014 at the Rose Lipton Building.

Nearest station: Haggerston (Overground)

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