The Burnt City review: It's a magical mystery tour that becomes less magical as it goes on


This is the most expansive show to date with the cavernous space of the Woolwich Arsenal decked out as the ancient city of Troy – all mixed up with contemporary bric-a-brac.

For three hours, we silent spectators (talking is forbidden) wander through the dimly-lit space, wearing Venetian-style white masks issued at the door.

Part installation, part theatre, it is almost literally a museum piece. Encountering audience members in dark corridors is as startling as scenes by the performers.

Indeed, we are performers ourselves, ghost-like witnesses to the horrors of the Trojan Wars – from murder after horrible murder including a bride having her throat slit on a set of huge cross-beams to an elaborate marriage feast that descends into bloody chaos complete with a horse’s skull and loops of bloody entrails.

It’s creepy and atmospheric but our freedom to wander makes it easy to be in the wrong place at the right time creating an increasing sense of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). The performers are all dancers and the choreography is extremely variable, ranging from acrobatic twirling from a rope to the slow intertwining of bodies.

The details of the accessorised rooms are astonishing, however, with photographs, domestic items, stuffed toys, letters written by Trojan generals and scores of tiny terracotta heads of goddesses in a souvenir ‘shop’ suggesting an explosion at a particularly interesting car boot sale.

Disconcerting, frustrating, fascinating and intermittently engaging, it is a magical mystery tour that becomes less magical as it goes on.

Woolwich Arsenal until December 4



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