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Dante’s In-Furlough The Vaults London | Review

Dante's In-Furlough
Dante’s In-Furlough

Have you heard the good news? You’ve been invited to hell to witness the marriage of the devil. This must mean you’re the worst of the worst. Don’t just take my word for it: the hosts of Dante’s In-Furlough won’t either. Instead, on your way from purgatory down the circles of hell, you’ll be tested. Games of skill (read: blind luck), bravery (foolhardiness) and honesty (admitting to deeds depraved and distinguished by their nastiness) will earn you souls for your passport, to gain entrance to the ninth circle.

An adaptation of Billy Markham and the Devil, the show retells the story as we proceed through a miscellany of rooms evoking mortal sins and the fun that hell will be. What? You didn’t imagine it would be anything but a riot, in the best possible meaning of the word?

The tests were a nice idea, but didn’t quite work. I got the impression we were supposed to be collecting passport stamps as we went, but a certain virus has made that too fiddly a proposition to follow through. Being alive, if you want to visit hell some precautions are necessary. Masks on, squirt often, keep apart from demons and other sinners: nobody wants to find themself trapped forever in the underworld.

Themself, you say? One of the added delights of this show is that in hell everyone has shed their gender, taking whatever form they desire. You must have realised these concepts are only enforced by the religious right, right? So everyone is they/them and liberally portrayed by whoever. This reinforces the other-worldly freedom, while showing us the paradise of ethics on offer when those who claim to understand morality are kept away from our lives (deaths!) and bodily autonomy. It’s a refreshing and gratifying touch.

We are split into four groups heading through the labyrinth. Ours was led by Billy Markham themself, a cocky chancer unafraid to challenge Lucifer and have a go at playing them at their own game. This gives our journey through the underworld its own tint and, while we intersected with another group at various points along our journey, the show might repay another viewing to see another perspective on the story. It’s not clear there’s a way of requesting a different host on a second attendance – something the production team might consider.

You will be insulted, challenged, inquisitioned and made to degrade yourself with a series of tasks. The language is well past bawdy and this show absolutely lives up to its adults-only classification. Sadly, our two groups parted, so I didn’t get to witness what the pair of siblings (assumed by the welcoming demon to be lovers) made of each other’s confessions! It’s not for the faint of heart or pure of head, this event knows it is outrageous and tries at every turn to go one step beyond this reputation. You’ll laugh and gasp and if you’re ready to stake your freedom versus eternal damnation on the throw of the dice, this one’s for you.

Don’t worry: if you lose, I’m sure the devil will be willing to negotiate a trade. Your dearest loved ones, perhaps, to be damned in your stead.

5 Star Rating

Review by Ben Ross

Amidst the doom and gloom of a pandemic, can our spirits sink any lower? Well yes, right down to the pits of Hell itself, as The Devil invites you to attend his wedding in the underworld (other times known as The Vaults). It’s set to be the most action you’ve had in 6 months. As with most things, the deeper you go, the more enjoyment you get.

For you to progress further, you’re going to have to lie, betray and cheat to beat the Devil at his own game, making your way through each circle of Hell; becoming his worst men, maids and all round rascals, in earning your seat at his wedding table.

Through each of these circles you’ll face all your vices, be they lust, gluttony, greed or something altogether more sinister. Your demonic guide will keep you in check and in trouble, along with your quarantine dearest or social bubble. Should you appear all too moral for their liking, then face being
banished to the plains of Earth, missing out on all the hedonism Hell hath to offer.

Inspired by Shel Silverstein’s epic poem ‘Billy Markham and the Devil’ written for PlayBoy in 1977,
fans of Shel’s can find themselves in a similar scenario to the poem’s protagonist – you’ll be gambling with your soul.

CAST
Liam Fleming
Isabella Leung
Alice Merivale
Janina Smith
Owen Jenkins
Verna Vyas
EM Williams
Simon Grujich

CREATIVE TEAM
Director and Co-Creator: Sam Carrack
Designer: Thomas Kirk Shannon
Producer for The Vaults and Co-Creator: Ami Stidolph
Director of The Vaults and Production Manager: Kieron Vanstone
Lighting Design: Clancy Flynn
Sound Design: Daffyd Gough
Co-costume Designer and Creator: Maeve Black
Head Chef: Lukasz Wrona
Stage Manager: Susannah Bond
Scenic Artist: Ellen Camilla Rose
Scenic Arist and Dresser: Sally Somerville
Carpenters: Dan Tye, Sam Thornbur, Will Aubrey Jones, Calum Mercer
Production Assistants: Temisan Nunu, Vanshika Rajeev and Lucy Brown

Dante’s In-Furlough
The Vaults London
Performance dates: 15th Oct – 30th Dec 2020 Thurs- Sun
Performance times: Vary
www.thevaults.london

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