London Museum of Water and Steam (venue)
09 September 2019 (released)
14 September 2019
The eerie setting of a Victorian pumphouse at dusk. Shadows curl from dark corners around the machinery which moved water and sewage around the grand houses of London. The atmosphere is heavy with the weight of past lives.
And that is before the terrific production of Silhouette in the Smoke begins. Over high tea under reassuringly bright lights, the psychic investigator, Jack Daw (played at this performance by Rosanna Mallinson) tells of the discovery of a pair of children’s boots during renovation work – with the feet still in them.
The tea finished, it is time to follow a character into the museum as the events of the pumphouse’s opening gala in 1871 unfold. The characters fight and argue, whisper confidences and listen behind doors. You roam through the pumphouse alongside them. Who knows what?
You reconvene with your fellow sleuths and compare what you’ve learnt. And then you go out again, this time with the rest of your table group, to interrogate each character.
Watching an actor close up as they give an emotive and nuanced performance which is completely improvised is a powerful experience, and it is at this point where the quality of the cast is amply apparent. Despite our giggling and confused questions, the cast doesn’t falter. Can we trust what we are told? Some are definitely lying – with others it’s not so clear. And don’t interrupt them, as a member of our group discovered to his cost!
The incredible attention to detail, from the costumes and props to each character’s backstory, makes this a fun and thought-provoking evening’s entertainment. Written by Rosanna Mallinson (who also directs) and David Knight, it is an experience I can’t recommend highly enough.