#5 Caravan

Theatre ( Immersive, Dance ) Cavern, Vaults

Caravan is an immersive theatre show, a kind of a dance cabaret with a light narrative structure and plenty of audience participation. There's a house band playing a background score crossing multiple genres, perhaps with a sentimental theme. In style, the show feels like a mix of perhaps the 50s and more contemporary moods. Jazz and hip hop.

The Cavern, another long, forbidding VAULT space, has horrendous acoustics, which butchers the music. And when the needlessly over-amplified music lingers around as if between uncomfortable and unconvincing, the immersion is quickly lost. The playing is all right, but it just doesn't work in the space.

Fortunately the band contributes to the show also with a brief drama segment, a little banter that becomes a scene — almost the best acting in the whole show.

Caravan is a bar, a 360 degree experience — if you are in the middle of the action. Benches and little tables line the narrow space, with the bar proper on one end. On this stage we see and supposedly experience the show.

There's a promise of a drink at the door, before the show. It proves to be a tepid juice of some kind, maybe with an undetectable shot of some spirits somewhere. This more or less summarises my overall experience of the show.

Caravan is a sequence of unremarkable dance numbers, or perhaps more broadly coordinated movement, with each of the staff members having their little turn on the stage. Like taking a broadway musical ensemble, with most of the singing cut out, but dancing and odourless segue drama kept in. Like a particularly annoying soap opera, a daytime TV episode.

A paper thin show, void of subtlety, supposedly on the themes of alcoholism, the immigrant experience, stress, and similar social woes. Big themes more or less just trotted on stage, and off again. Low point of the show proved to be the hysterical screaming (recall the horrendous acoustics) of the proprietor-matriarch, when her staff got on her nerves.

The staff is quite diverse, to say the least, but the characters have no depth, no soul. There was an attempt at emotion in the drama segues, but it never took off. The Drunk couldn't find real emotion even in the middle of the clumsy, underwhelming movement, simultaneously over- and under-rehearsed struggle for the bottle.

All through the show, some unfortunate audience members coaxed to join in on the thin action. We were all invited to dance in the end. More awkward than immersive, though in fairness, I wasn't on the dancing mood to begin with. Lacking the atmosphere to pull you along.

I'm noticing a bit of a trend here, with some of these immersive shows. Going out of your way to involve the audience in the "fun", inevitably makes the show itself lose its focus. The shows reduce into "it's just like a party, really", a strange pseudo-performance that doesn't know what it's trying to say. Result being a vacuous, perplexing romp.

When the lights went off in the beginning, I got my hopes up for a spectacle that never appeared.

Of all the bars in the world, Caravan is probably not worth your patronage. Very little to see here. Best let the Caravan go on past you, and let the dogs bark, too.