Thursday, 21 April 2016


Long term readers of this blog will be familiar with my sporadic reviews of creepy live/immersive events.
This latest review is the largest and most hyped yet — a live-action performance from the creative minds behind New York's Accomplice and the spectacular Alice's Adventures Underground (which ran at this same location) featuring stories from the second highest selling children's book series of all time, topped only by Harry Potter.
That series is R. L. Stine's Goosebumps.


Location: The Vaults, Waterloo
Tickets: From £39

Upon arrival at the notoriously difficult to locate, but extremely atmospheric Vaults, we were split into suitably creepy groups — I was assigned a Spider along with my companion.
From here we wandered into the Goosebumps bar, where we bought and enjoyed a very crisp Goosebumps lager each and checked out the fantastic array of masks hanging from the walls, as designed by the Ministry of Masks, who also provided props for the show.
After a while one of our number started to cry out, speaking about the visions that haunt him... and then the show began.

From here we were guided to several mini-shows, each an updated retelling or reimagining of one of RL Stine's classic spooky tales. 
I don't want to spoil the various surprises in store, but the novels touched upon included Say Cheese and Die (with the cursed camera replaced with the iPhone of the future), The Haunted Mask, the Horrorland stories and subsequent spin-off series, Night of the Living Dummy and The Scarecrow Walks at Midnight, among too many other little references to count.

Each segment ran for a vastly differing time – some full blown stories taking place in multiple locations, others short, sharp shocks existing purely to set up a good fright before propelling you into the the next tale.
This somewhat disjointed approach really worked in the show's favour as it kept the audience on edge, never quite sure what to expect in the next 'room'.
The sets and production design for each of these rooms was truly spectacular, ranging from a tent in the middle of the woods to a farm on the edge of an expansive cornfield by way of a twisted big top and even a cramped and creepy lift. The attention to detail was magnificent, while the atmospheric soundtrack provided by the Tiger Lillies really delivered. So too did the sterling cast.
Each scene/story boasted different actors who were uniformly superb.
It's difficult to single any of the performers put for praise as they were all so good, but I think I most enjoyed the work of the excellent Lucy Benson-Brown in the Mask segment and Matthew Coulton as the disturbed host of the evening, plus that of Macy Nyman during the Tent scene and Russell Layton in Scarecrow.
Another cast member to make a great impression during his brief appearance was the decidedly creepy Howard Samuels as the ghoulish, grinning Horrorland Host. The costume design for his character was fantastic, and his performance, built on theatrical gestures and snarling facial expressions complemented it perfectly. Very impressive.

As you might expect, some segments of Goosebumps Alive are stronger than others, although none really disappoint. I particularly enjoyed the Scarecrow section of the event, while I appreciated the well worked frights of the lift scene,which delivered an excellent scare. Surprisingly, I think my favourite section was the aforementioned Tent story, which in direct contrast to the spectacular staging and effects of other scenes relied on darkness, a compelling story and the aforementioned praiseworthy performance of young Nyman. Excellent.
However, as good as the odd frights that come your way are, I do feel it's worth reiterating that this is, first and foremost, a theatrical experience, NOT a pulsepounding fright event such as those in which attendees participate at Haunts and Fright mazes such as Thorpe Park's Frightnights or Tulley's Farm's Shocktober Fest. Expect creepy, not terrifying.
Well except for that finale...
At a decent price for over 90 minutes of beautifully staged, acted and presented immersive entertainment (trust me, there's a real chance you can end up right in the heart of things, as I did many times!), Goosebumps Alive is a pretty easy recommendation.
Not since I was a young lad have RL Stine's creations seemed so real and so spectacularly spooky.
If you loved the Goosebumps novels, go.
If you like cutting-edge theatre and immersive entertainment, go.
If you like fun — and frights — go.
You really won't regret it.

You can buy tickets for Goosebumps Alive here. The show is running until Sunday 5 June.

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Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay. 

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