The Crystal Egg Live
Reviewed – 7th January 2018
“The attention to detail is outstanding and your eyes flick around the set trying to take everything in”
Mike Archer has adapted H G Wells’ short story “The Crystal Egg” for the stage and it’s billed as a multi sensory, immersive experience. On entering, you step back in time to the 19th century and find yourself in poverty stricken Seven Dials. Jason Kelvin has made great use of the space available creating shop fronts full of interesting bits and pieces that instantly transport you to the bygone era. Actors interact with the awaiting audience – a policemen and fortune teller wander through the street and a busker plays a fiddle. This gives you an anticipation for the play to begin.
The opening scene is set here, although difficult for some to see if they are not near the central stage, and the character of Charley Wace is introduced. This is unfortunately where the “immersion” ends. From here you are taken to a more traditional theatre space with mismatched seating. The set itself is fantastic – you are seated inside the home of Mr and Mrs Cave and their Curiosity shop. The attention to detail from Kelvin is outstanding and your eyes flick around the set trying to take everything in. Miriam King has also done a great job with the costumes enhancing the feeling of being back in the 19th century. For the rest of the play you remain seated and there is no audience interaction. You become a viewer rather than part of the show. This is not necessarily a bad thing but as it’s billed as immersive theatre, it doesn’t quite meet expectations.
Charley Wace has lost his father and has been left a crystal egg. Taken in by his kindly uncle Mr Cave, Charley gives the egg to him as payment for allowing him to stay. Quickly we learn that there is more to the egg than meets the eye and it soon takes control of Mr Cave’s mind. Mark Parsons plays the part of Mr Cave well and you can sense his desperation and pain as his character changes when the power of the egg takes over. Throughout the play Charley Wace is referred to as a boy but as he is played by Des Carney, a grown man with a beard, it is difficult to perceive him as a young boy and not a peer of Mr Cave, making you unsure as to why he needs to be given a home by the Caves.
The character of Anna-Jacoby is played by Carolina Main and for me she gives the stand out performance. She has a haunting presence on stage and her fear of change and strangers is so believable you feel the anxiety that is pulsing through her veins.
This is an enjoyable play but it doesn’t quiet deliver the opening promise of a piece of immersive theatre. If they increased the audience interaction or presented it as a more conventional piece this would greatly enhance the production. A good start but not quiet there!
Reviewed by Angela East
Photography by Miryana Ivanova
THE CRYSTAL EGG LIVE
The Vaults until 13th January