Before I begin, I’d like to apologise to anyone that’s been anticipating this review, especially the cast of 139 Copeland Road: I was seriously ill for the event and just about managed to drag myself along, and since I’ve literally not had the energy to get round to writing this up.
Anywho, on with the review!
After the sheer intensity of Séance in Birmingham a few weeks earlier, 139 Copeland Road suddenly appeared on my Facebook feed, and with only a small number of likes and a rather captive backstory, I knew I had to go to it one way or another. I spoke with a few friends and managed to get tickets for the same show as my friend from Europehaunts, who frequently flies to the UK to experience the shows here. With much excitement, we counted down the days until the show.
As I explained above, a few days before I had a flare up (I’ve suffered from Crohn’s disease since 2014, and it’s rare for me to admit it so publicly but I very much have reason to), which included intense stomach cramps that are unbearably painful, which almost made me give up my ticket; however, I didn’t: I got dressed (readas: put clothes over my pyjamas) and headed off to 139 Copeland Road.
I got to Hackney Wick station and punched in the postcode on my phone, and began following the instructions, half forcing myself to just go and get it over and done with. After getting lost despite being stood right outside the venue, I bumped into the guy from Europehaunts who seemed to have his head screwed on more than me as he instantly saw the venue: a derelict house.
We approached 137 Copeland Road, showed our tickets, and were let inside, where we were greeted by the sights of a completely gutted house, an absolute skeleton of what we’d consider a building. Music wafted through the air while floodlights splashed light across the walls, which were decorated with newspaper articles, pictures, police enquiries, and all sorts of information about seances and the family that lived there.
An eccentric man dressed as if he had stepped out of a steampunk fantasy novel explained the story of 139 Copeland Road: Mary, a single mother of two, had been living at 139 Copeland Road. She had been a school teacher, a much loved figure in the community. One night in 1974 however, a house fire led to Mary and her two boys burning to their deaths. The bodies were never recovered. Since then, the house has stood empty, partly due to the derelict state, but even more so because of the rumours. The sightings.
As soon as he wrapped up the story we were led into 139 Copeland Road, which was just as derelict, if not moreso, than the building we had just come from, and even upon entering there was something not quite right about the house. We were invited to take a seat at a table that had a lightbulb dangling from the rafters above, dimly lighting what felt like would have been the living room before the fire, whilst the Medium set up the seance with an offering of food, candles, and a picture of Mary, whom we were trying to contact. The light dangling above the table was turned off, leaving us bathed in the light of the three candles. We all joined hands, and the seance began.
Over the course of the next half hour, all of us at the show were completely encapsulated in the seance; lights would flicker, objects would vibrate and shake, and even though at a subconscious level I knew it was fake, I could have sworn there was someone stood directly behind me, staring at the back of my neck – something that Europehaunts also felt.
We found ourselves rushing around this decrepit house, our paths lit only by two of the smallest and dimmest torches ever, as we try to unravel the secrets that 139 Copeland Road held: we soon learned that the fire was no accident, and there was something much darker and sinister lurking in the shadows.
Though that entity sure wasn’t the only thing to be hidden in the shadows: there were points where we were plunged into pitch black, huddled in a corner as all sorts of noises rattled around us, making everyone feel claustrophobic. In one room, we were stood with a faint ticking noise that grew louder and louder from the loft, which became more and more consuming the louder it got – the ticking was the most intense and attention grabbing noise I’ve ever heard in my life, then it stopped. We all stood there in absolute silence, waiting.
As the show drew to a close, the experience became more intense still, as the guy who set the scene ended up disappearing in front of our very eyes, and we were chased out of the building by a roar that somehow chased us all down the stairs: the finale, an absolutely mindblowing scene that used the chaos as a perfect cover to transport items from where we were to the sinister entity more than 10 feet away from us, which was incredibly impressive. We were soon chased out of 139 Copeland Road and onto the streets, where we all took a moment to sigh and decompress before laughing at how immersed and scared we all were.
Well, what can I say? This has to be one of the best pieces of immersive theatre I’ve ever experienced – I don’t usually get sucked into a story within 10 minutes of the show starting but this got me perfectly – I even forgot that I was in pain for the entire show, which is absolutely incredible!
Despite there being only a handful of actors, each one played their parts perfectly – the Medium did a fantastic job of acting exactly like Mediums do on Most Haunted and the like, the guy that set the scene was really easy to listen to and believe, and the plant that I suspected was a plant at the beginning actually had me fooled once the seance began, and the sinister entity used the strobes perfectly to seemingly glide across the room at numerous moments in the event (though a black zentai suit would have been a bit creepier).
Considering the only effects that were used were flickering lights and speakers (probably triggered from 137 Copeland Road), the company behind the show were able to quickly and effectively suspend reality and create an entire world within the walls of that house. I’m glad that I forced myself to go despite being ill, as I know I wouldn’t have forgiven myself for not going.
One eensy-weensy criticism was that the speakers in the bedroom and living room were easily visible (if you knew where you were looking) and the two strobelights used at the end could have been moved so that they were hidden behind the beam where the dividing wall was (can’t explain it any better unfortunately – sorry!).
I look forward to hopefully seeing more from the creators of 139 Copeland Road, as they are definitely hitting the nail on the head when it comes to immersive theatre.