Join Shelby Export Ltd
in the world of Peaky Blinders!
“Is Tommy here? Have you seen Tommy?”
Polly, Arthur, John, Michael, Lizzie
One of the BBC stand out dramas of the last decade Peaky Blinders retains a significant public following. It was created by Steven Knight and ran for six series. Since the show ended in April 2022 it has spawned a number of offshoots including a Rambert dance show to tour next year. The series, originally set in Birmingham, introduced a number of memorable characters and was based on the real gangs that came to prominence after the First World War. It is reported that a film is in the making of the next chapter of the Blinders story.
So we come to Peaky Blinders: The Rise, an immersive theatrical experience at Camden Garrison in the Old Stables Market, close to where the gangs controlled robbery, violence, racketeering, and illegal bookmaking, so you start with a real sense of location. It is 1921, Tommy Shelby (Craig Hamilton) has most of the Birmingham underworld under control and it is time to expand. He has come to a deal with Jewish gangster and liquor dealer Alfie Solomons (Sam Blythe) in London. To increase the family business Shelby has to have a family meeting and vote, this is where we come in, whisky export to a prohibition America via Canada is on the table with potentially huge profits.
Immersive experiences can sometimes be a bit hit and miss, including being overly long. This production of approaching two and a half hours is just right. Surprisingly, you do not need to know what happened in the TV show to enjoy Peaky Blinders – The Rise. Before the show you will be given a questionnaire and allocated to a family and asked to wear the family’s colour. On entrance you’re given some Bank of London notes and you are told by the door keeper that the cops are paid off and if asked who you are, you say the password that you are a baker.
The action moves at a pace and you will meet all of the main characters, and a few new ones, who look like and act like the characters they play. You can believe the charismatic Craig Hamilton is really Tommy the head of the family, and his assertive sister Polly (Emma Stansfield) is matriarch of the Shelbys. This was the part taken by the late and sadly missed Helen McCrory. I particularly liked Kieran Mortell who plays Tommy’s brother Arthur Shelby the altogether psychotic one.
The cast are dressed just as they would have been with the distinctive haircuts that are essential. The caps are on sale at the show in different tweeds but presumably without the razor blades in the brim giving the show’s title. The bar staff too are dressed in the smart ties and aprons in the nightclub and in the Garrison bar slightly more casually. It is this attention to detail which makes the show feel authentic.
The Old Garrison Horse Hospital has been converted into a series of distinct areas, the bookies, secretaries’ office, bars and a separate drinking club you can easily accept what you are seeking. Lizzie (Megan Shandley) runs the office for Tommy. The action moves around from one area to another all part of the story. Michael Grey (Daniel Mackenzie-Carter) Polly’s son figures prominently on his 18th birthday although 21 would have been adulthood then. There is accomplished jazz singing in the Shelby stronghold from Pearl St Clair (Kat Johns Burke).
The cast mingle with the crowd asking “Have you seen Tommy?” There are secrets to be found. Tommy maintains loyalty by giving money to all visitors, but is it enough to buy allegiance to the Shelbys?
One side action which not everybody may see is the Eden Nightclub, owned by the Italians headed by Charles Sabini (Austin Brown). There Ada (Lucinda Turner) a nightclub singer in sequinned frock, entertains us while Sabini asks his henchman George (Reece Richardson) why Tommy Shelby wasn’t shot on orders. We are invited to the club to spy on the Italians and report back to the Shelby family. The important thing is that each person’s experience will be different and you can return and see something else.
The clothes are stylish and of the very best quality. Arthur wears Moss Bros suits made of finest Scottish wool and the Italians known for valuing ‘la bella figura’ have designer suits of Italian lightweight quality cloth.
There is a family dance starting with stamping moves and getting progressively wilder which later we might be invited to join.
I went on a very hot sunny day and was worried that inside would be too hot, I am pleased to say the garrison was beautifully air conditioned. Much of the show is standing but there are a few chairs but if you sit down you may miss some of the show.
I recommend that you dress in period which the cast appreciate and they may invite you to see extra scenes or send you on a mission. The full priced VIP ticket with extras is double the price of an ordinary entry.
We didn’t find it easy to find the venue and Google maps were useless inside the market. We found it best to look for people wearing the Peaky Blinders caps and follow them! The three words are ///fruit.city.woof
The only game we played was cards but we thoroughly enjoyed the immersive wander in the world of Peaky Blinders and can recommend the experience for all.
Peaky Blinders – The Rise
Produced by Immersive Everywhere in association with Caryn Mandabach Productions and Steven Knight
Directed by Tom Maller
Director: Tom Maller
Designer: Rebecca Brower
Composer: Barnaby Race
Scriptwrier: Katie Lyons
Lighting Designer: Terry Cook
Movement Director: Charlie Burt
Sound Designer: Luke Swaffield
Games Designer: Eyal Danon
Fight Director: Stuart Boother
Running Time: Two hours 30 minutes Promenade
Booking until 12th February 2023
Chalk Farm Road
London NW1 8AH
Box Office: Book online
Tube: Camden Town
Reviewed by Malcolm Beckett
at the Camden Garrison on 11th July 2022