Hanna Arcola Theatre Photo Miryana Ivanova
Photo Miryana Ivanova

The Crystal Egg

Reviewer's Rating

The show itself is worth seeing for the location. With an impressive array of old brick tunnels that set you back straight into a dark, mysterious nineteenth century London, The Vaults are more than just a theatre venue. After collecting your tickets, you will have to walk down a dark tunnel. The only light being little fairy lights hanging from the ceiling like fireflies. A stunning entrance, but it doesn’t end there.
The moment you enter the actual theatre space, you are surrounded by the cast in deceptively realistic costumes, buzzing around a high street made up of actual shop fronts.

The stage at first isn’t a separate space, with the audience as part of the setting. Ladies in long dresses with strict cuts and dark colours warn you about pick pockets in the area and a vagabond might try to sell you a prediction of your fortune for just six pence. There is no fourth wall at first in this play and it is great how engaged the cast is with the scenery. Every member is fully emerged into the life of a nineteenth century Londoner.

Overall, it is amazing how many little details are spread across the venue. Curious items and shop windows displaying their goods make The Vaults feel like a movie set. After following the cast into an antique shop, the audience gets to sit down and the stage space becomes separate – however, you can still hear what is going on outside the shop as there is a giant window next to the seats. That effect makes one feel like the stage actually is an inside space, with a city unfolding in front of the door.

The crystal egg itself, the centre of the storyline, is the size of an ostrich egg and its light effects are stunning, at times creepy. It is well integrated into the play and really serves as a capturing item. In combination with the sound and light flickering of the egg, the lighting of the surrounding works well to intensify the scenes. Calm landscape paintings change as more dystopian elements are projected onto them. An effect that works incredibly well with the old brick arches.

The story based on the book by H. G. Wells, author of ‘The War of the Worlds’ and ‘The Time Machine’. Its stage adaption by Mike Archer is engaging and well directed. However, there is very little character development and the dialogues and interactions do not show a lot of depth. That might be due to the nature of the genre. The focus of the play is the mystery/sci-fi storyline. Thus, the characters seem to be kept at a simple level. Crystal Egg might not be for everybody and it is not a play that is likely to leave you thinking about its meaning. Nevertheless, the whole event promises an entertaining night and let alone the thought put into the setting is sure to leave the audience stunned. Definitely a play worth seeing.