Following a highly successful run in 2012, Battersea Arts Centre has once more recalled to life George Neighbour; a local man who has forgotten his own story and needs your help to discover it. George lives in Battersea Arts Centre with his friend Monique. He is afraid of many things: fire, heights, windows; but he cannot remember a single detail of his previous existence. He explains this to everybody with wonderfully comic pathos at the beginning of the play, before sending us off, in little groups, on our quest.
This is interactive theatre at its very best; a treasure hunt of epic and enthralling proportions which sees the audience race around the maze that is the arts centre, meeting a bewildering variety of people and having fantastic adventures, whilst trying to find clues to solve the riddle that is George. Each room we visit, knocking three times on the door, has been conceived and realised by a different group of performance artists, but all mesh together beautifully in the Wonderland style journey. In one room we meet the magical Momentologist, gathering in jars the drops which represent memorable moments in peoples’ lives. In another we learn about the joy of giving, in another we sit at the roots of a giant tree to remember objects we have lost. We regroup briefly to draw our adventures on a giant chalkboard before setting off again at breakneck pace; pausing only to help the poor vertiginous George down the giant marble staircase as we pass. We take part in an electrical experiment, instructed by talking light-bulbs, and crawl on our hands and knees through a tunnel to visit a bee in her hive. At times it is easy to forget the reason for our quest, as the links to George himself are sometimes quite tenuous; however the experiences are so beguiling that it scarcely seems to matter. Finally everyone comes together in the great hall, breathless with exertion and anticipation, to learn the great secret of George Neighbour’s life, which does not disappoint.
The sheer level of organisation involved in this operation is awesome. Ten groups of around eight people each are seamlessly swept around the building by the “helpers”, who seem to be having just as good a time as the audience themselves, only occasionally getting tangled up with each other in doorways, and never crashing in upon each other in the different rooms. The timing is excellent, the performers and helpers are energetic and incredibly likeable, and the entire experience runs like clockwork. We only had one child in our group, but after around ten minutes we had become children ourselves, gasping in wonder, clamouring to give the answers, laughing giddily as we jumped from bee to bee (you’ll see) in the foyer. Such lessons as there were to learn: not giving in to fear, living each moment, being generous; were gently taught without preaching. Despite the child-friendly atmosphere the tone was never patronising; rather we were encouraged to remember the joy and enthusiasm of childhood ourselves and to join in the general mayhem. The great reveal of George’s secret, a lesson in itself, was treated joyfully despite the underlying sadness and the children, clamouring to tell what they had discovered, were thrilled to have been of help.
Before the performance started, the lady in the cloakroom said to me “Oh, you’ll love it, you’ll feel like a little girl again!”, and she was absolutely right. As an adult, to participate in such a wonderful, crazy journey was magical. As a child, it would give you memories to cherish forever.
Reviewed by Genni Trickett
THE GOOD NEIGHBOUR
George Neighbour has lived at Battersea Arts Centre all his life and knows it like the back of his hand, but now he needs your help to uncover the mystery of his lost memory. Join him on a thrilling dash through the building, jumping in and out of magical worlds where curious characters all have their own incredible tale to tell.
THE GOOD NEIGHBOUR
A Battersea Arts Centre and Bloomberg Futures Production
6th December to 4th January 2014
Running Time: 135 mins
For ages 6+ and their families
Price: All children’s tickets £12
Adults: £16.50 (13th – 22nd December), £19.50 (24th December to 4th January 2014)
BAC Lavender Hill London SW11 5TN
Box Office 020 7223 2223
Battersea Arts Centre’s critically acclaimed show for children and families returns this Christmas.
15th December 2013