There were a million things I could have done last night – standing in an abandoned biscuit factory in Bermondsey was not high on my list. It was freezing cold. It was pitch black. But we were gathered there to the latest experimental site-specific event by Shunt, the company favoured by the National Theatre to stage (if that’s not really the right word) on-site alternative happenings.
This one involved a maze, an art-deco ship and something vaguely apocalyptic. Clues rang bells; the giant bull with the glass stomach was the giveaway. Pasiphae was fated to copulate with a bull after Poseidon cursed her to lust after the first thing she saw, so Daedelus built her a wooden bull carcass and covered it with a hide, and she conceived the Minotaur. That much I remembered, and I had a vague feeling Icarus was nearby to all this, but it’s as far as my memory of Robert Graves’ myth translations took me.
That explained the maze, but why the ship? Why the peculiar lecture on architecture conducted in strangled Swedish? Why the admittedly dazzling rope act involving breaking cords? Add to this a good band, some lousy jokes about ocean cruises, a man in a bull’s head getting beaten up and an end tableau that made no sense, and we left £25 lighter scratching our heads, thinking that perhaps site-specific events had finally had their day.
They say the steps between thoughts must be cut shallow if they are to communicate, and this really didn’t make any sense at all, no matter how you stacked it up. This was deeply lazy and lousy, and undermined the good nature of those who had trekked there – next time, I think I’ll pass.
The good news was that it left us in Bermondsey at 10:00pm, which was the perfect time to get a table at The Garrison Pub. Bermondsey Street is, along with Exmouth Market, Broadway Market and Columbia Road, one of the few picture-perfect roads left in London – vast council blocks at its back, but preserved houses for the length of just one street, the sort of place that turns up in movies selling ‘Englishness’.