Absent - Theatre ☆☆☆☆☆5

Showing from - Saturday, August 20, 2016 through till Thursday, August 25, 2016

Winter Gardens - Blackpool

Sandra Mangan | Sunday, August 21, 2016

Absent reviewed by Sandra Mangan on Sunday, August 21, 2016 for Downstage CentreA multi-sensory, mess-with-your-mind, all-encompassing piece of living theatre - 'Absent' at the Blackpool Winter Gardens.

I've read all of the enigmatic pre-publicity for Absent at the Winter Gardens Hotel and still I was unsure what I was letting myself into as I stepped into the plush reception area.


My guest and I had a reservation, under the name of Downstage Centre, and we were greeted warmly and ushered over to the bar for a complimentary drink. Beautiful, unforgettable - but let's add disturbing, haunting, moving and truly, utterly, amazingOther guests were scattered around the room, enjoying an aperitif and reading the local newspaper, while staff stood nearby, ready to cater to their every whim.


At our allotted time, we were ushered through. And then? Well, I'm really not at liberty to say much more, sorry! I can only urge you to go and see for yourself and I guarantee you will have never seen the like before.


The website describes the show as "a mystery tour through the maze of a modern hotel development into the bygone splendour of Blackpool’s glorious past." and that's certainly true, although it is only scratching the surface of this multi-sensory, mess-with-your-mind, all-encompassing piece of living theatre.


Ebb and Flow

At the heart of it all is Maggie Morgan, a woman who won £1,000 on the Premium Bonds back in the day when that was a shedload of money. Rather than spend, spend, spend, Maggie invested the cash in a long-term stay in one of the Winter Garden Hotel's plushest suites. She's been there ever since, watching the hotel's fortunes ebb and flow in step with the popularity of Blackpool as a seaside resort.


Once, the Winter Gardens Hotel was the epitome of glamour; now tourists want their accommodation to be cheap and cheerful and a new management is planning to gut the place and double the number of rooms (another way of saying rooms will be 50 per cent smaller). Will Maggie be forced to leave, or is she destined haunt the corridors forever?


Created by Tristran Sharps of dreamthinkspeak, adapted from an acclaimed production which ran in Shoreditch, London, Absent looks at the changing world of Blackpool and the wider world beyond from the perspective of one of its most iconic and remarkable buildings: The Winter Gardens.



Back to the website for further insight: "In small groups at a time, you will travel through a warren of rooms and corridors that are inexplicably transforming before your very eyes. Mixing film, architecture and vast model-making installations with a haunting soundtrack, you will enter a kaleidoscopic world that shifts between Blackpool’s past, present and future to create a beautiful and unforgettable experience."


Beautiful, unforgettable – both excellent descriptions, but let's add disturbing, haunting, moving and truly, utterly, amazing. Although I'm not prepared to reveal too much and ruin the magic, suffice to say I cannot recommend this show/immersive theatre experience/large-scale art installation enough. PLEASE grab a ticket while you can.



Note: this show runs 20— 25 August, 12— 16 September, 25— 29 September

Produced by: dreamthinkspeak

Commissioned by The Grand Theatre, Blackpool and LeftCoast

Showing: 20— 25 August

12— 16 September

25— 29 September


Production Information

Theatre: Winter Gardens

Showing Until: Thursday, August 25, 2016

Production Company: dreamthinkspeak

     MORE ARTICLES BY   Sandra Mangan

  • Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat ☆☆☆

    Published: 09 Feb 2016


    You can call Joe McElderry Mr Versatile. Just check his CV (or Wikipedia) if you doubt me – “winner of The X Factor, Popstar to Operastar...

  • Miss Nightingale ☆☆☆☆☆

    Published: 04 Feb 2016


    Let’s get this clear from the start. Miss Nightingale is NOT about the Lady with the Lamp…. Lady with the Vamp, more like!   London, 1942...

  • A Christmas Carol ☆☆☆☆

    Published: 10 Dec 2015


    The night began with a glass of mulled wine and ended with a turkey and cranberry barmcake.   Sound Christmassy enough for you? Slap ban...

  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs ☆☆☆☆

    Published: 04 Dec 2015


    Leaving the Grand Theatre, raspy of throat and sparkling of eye, I mused on the longevity of pantomime – after all, it’s 50 years plus si...

  • Tommy ☆☆☆☆☆

    Published: 12 Sep 2015


    It’s 40 years. Yes, you read that right, 40 YEARS since the film version of The Who’s Tommy was released. I remember seeing it back in th...

  • The Full Monty ☆☆☆☆☆

    Published: 11 Sep 2015


    Don’t you just love the sheer escapism of the theatre?  The main cast of six contained a number of actors whose faces were familiar (and ...

Would you give "Absent" a ☆☆☆☆☆ rating?
Join the discussion and give us your view