I don’t think I’ve ever before been to an event where I’ve wanted to go again immediately, but Peaky Blinders: The Rise ticks that box.
The show is so vast, so staggeringly full of things to do, that you could go a second time and have a completely different experience.
The premise, for those not acquainted with Peaky Blinders, is simple. Tommy Shelby wants to expand the family business into London and is throwing a party for friends and family (that means you, dear visitor) to make it happen.
Of course, things aren’t that simple and the Italian and Jewish gangs are nipping at his heels – making this a show where you can sell information, steal money and wheel and deal your way through the evening in the hopes of making sure your favourite team win at the end of the night.
There’s a remarkable amount of freedom – perhaps a bit too much. At any given time, you can choose to take part in any one of a dozen different things happening around the venue. In one room, Arthur is having a fight with John; in another, the Italians are ushering people into their top-secret Eden Club to extort information from the guests; in yet another, Grace is getting people to help her pass a secret message to Tommy.
The downside of this is that you always feel like you’re being slightly short-changed. I found myself craning my neck throughout the evening, hyper-conscious that there could be stuff I was missing. I didn’t get to take part in any of the betting or wheeler-dealing, and though I managed to gleefully swipe a bag of cash, it ended up swinging awkwardly from one hand as the action wrapped up.
This show feels like it could, and should, be at least an hour longer (not something you hear often about a piece of theatre), giving the guests some time to breathe in between all the frenetic action taking place. My partner, who had never watched Peaky Blinders before, was utterly confused as to what was going on – this is not a show made to accommodate Peaky newbies.
That said, the set is marvellous, and the attention to detail faultless. The Camden Garrison is the perfect venue, with the stables providing multiple nooks and crannies for people to gather and plot, as well as gobs of atmosphere.
The cast is also excellent; despite at-times ropey Brummie accents, you really do feel as though the Shelbys have stepped out of the screen and into real life. Aunt Polly, of course, got the biggest cheer of the night – as is only right. All hail the Peaky Blinders: their latest outing is a triumph.
Now open at the Camden Garrison; immersivepeakyblinders.com