The Unholy Marriage of Slice and Sweetly
It’s a gorgeous summer evening as I cross the courtyard of St Matthew’s Church in Bethnal Green. The air is light and dreamy, and as a cluster of us gather at the rear doors of the church, chattering in quiet excitement, children about to be let in on a secret, the sun twinkles from the stain glass in washes of colour, and we smile sweetly at each other. And then the adventure begins.
We’re ushered through the doors into a quiet room upstairs, and briefed for our mission by the no-nonsense guide, who tells us very matter-of-factly that we’re about to travel back in time to a wedding in 1955 between Jim Slice and Maude Sweetly; not only that, but moments before the violent murder of Reverend Gris. It’s up to us to solve the mystery and find the culprit; perfectly placed in the EastEnd, it’s a whodunnit Christie herself would have approved of (albeit with a slightly different crowd). The doors open and we all stop for a moment in wonder, mouths agape; from the dusty stuffiness of the briefing room, we tumble out into the stunning church space that is St Matthew’s; front doors open and sunlight still streaming through, there’s a crackle of electricity in the air that disrupts the peaceful evening; we begin to notice figures, elegantly dressed in fifties black tie and pink satin, scattered around the church. As we filter in, they are brought to life, and the church buzzes with what’s to come.
It’s glorious entertainment- the tales of lust and loss are meaty enough to sink into, but we’re also offered a string of clues leading to dodgy business deals and a black-market briefcase that’s full of secrets. It’s an Agatha Christie novel meets Eastenders- juicy, dramatic and a whole lot of fun, whilst still being engaging and intellectual enough to keep us running (literally, at times) after the truth. The cast are splendid; Neil Summerville is wonderful as the untrustworthy reverend, and Ellie Woodruff-Bryant is creepily convincing as brilliant cousin Bernie- but it’s Rebecca Crankshaw who steals the show in true, screeching mother-of-the-bride fashion as Cherry Sweetly; I’m tempted at times to disobey the rules and abandon my mission simply to follow her around. Quite terrifying up close, and hilarious in each encounter, Crankshaw storms around the church with fiery force, and we squeal with delight if we accidentally get in her way- there’s a feeling we’ll be mowed down if we do.
After watching the dastardly damnation of Rev. Gris, we’re allowed intimate interviews with each character, where the audience takes the reigns and dives into what feels like a detective plot. The piece ends elegantly and eerily; and we spill out into the night chattering even more excitedly than before. It feels like anything is possible; and each one of us is dying to go back for more, to dive once again into the inventive fun of ImmerCity.
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