The Outsider (Bláithín Mac Gabhann) shelters from the pouring rain within the hallowed walls of Battersea Arts Centre. As they enter they are greeted by a red version of Carroll’s white rabbit, played by Omid Djalili, who leads us and The Outsider through the labyrinth of darkened passages and peeling walls.
Following them in just one unbroken shot we are transported through the corridors and rooms watching as silent spectators to the magic. Written by Omid Djalili, Suri Krishnamma, and Nicholas Mark Harding, we see a plethora of talent within one 40 minute hallucination of winding corridors, cacophonies of sound and twisting bodies.
First we see Lucy McCormick, her hair soaked and pasted onto her skin, belting her rich voice into the cavernous hallways and stairwells accompanied by her trademark smudged mascara. An incredibly powerful performer, this medium and almost opium-fuelled journey is perfect for her intense and evocative performance style. Botis Seva performs a hip-hop infused dance swirling and gliding through open space and corridors like a breath of air. Accompanied by the sound and image of the gradually falling sand this image is beautiful, slow and moving.
My favourite performance of our journey is to The Cocoa Butter Club with riotous fun, joyous colour, and amazing vocals available there. The glistening silver dresses, green and yellow frills on tops and shorts and multicolour hoops spinning rapidly. In lockdown the escapism of being in a speak-easy atmosphere with the small tables, and cabaret style is even more gregarious and exciting.
Our protagonist’s silence is the most powerful part of this piece as their black clothes, and small movements through the corridors only seems to enhance the vibrancy of the art around them.
The strength of this story lies in the breaks from the acts filled with Omid Djalili and his rhymes, reminiscent of Caroll’s poetry but with modern day wit and vigor. A particular favourite quote being ‘when I look in the mirror I see a short fat kebab-shop-owners son in a flamboyant hat’.
Our final moments in the centre are spent with queer poet Sanah Ahsan as they speak to our hearts about coming ‘as you are’ and I feel this message has never better fit than in this film, full of the best of the misfits in the underground of Battersea Arts Centre.
A true joy of a watch, I feel I am dreaming while still awake. If you miss the transporting element of theatre then this fantasy is a vital escape.
The Way Out is currently available on BBC IPlayer.