Exclusive review: Dante’s in Furlough

Last weekend, I sold my soul for a cocktail, but don’t worry, it was worth it!

Filled with raunchy humour and risky wagers, Dante’s in Furlough is not for the faint-hearted. As an immersive show, you will have to interact with the cast – lying, cheating, and taunting – to progress within the play and earn your seat at the Devil’s wedding.

For those who aren’t aware, the performance is based on Shel Silverstein’s epic ‘The Devil and Billy Markham’, written for PlayBoy in 1977. Like the poem, you will venture through the rings of hell, gambling with increasing stakes. Be wary, in hell everyone’s soul is free for the taking and if you’re not careful your loved ones may exchange yours for their freedom. 

Opening in a haze filled bar, fixed with a stiff drink, you are immediately introduced to two of the show’s key figures. Thanks to COVID, these figures will vary depending on which staggered performance you are a part of. You will then be split into two socially distanced groups and taken down into the icy pits of hell. For my group, this was Nancy, the Devil’s bride, a feisty and foul-mouthed woman who despises her husband-to-be. On route to her wedding, we unveiled our deepest desires, saucy secrets, and gambled away the souls of those dearest to us. 

Donning satanic symbols, the hall very much reflected the Devil’s narcissistic behaviour and demonstrated that this was his wedding, not theirs

After circling the seven rings of hell, we were escorted into the wedding hall where the final portion of the show took place. Donning satanic symbols, the hall very much reflected the Devil’s narcissistic behaviour and demonstrated that this was his wedding, not theirs, a nice feature added by the set department. Between the elaborate set and costumes, it was evident the amount of hard work had put into this performance. 

As the wedding portion of the show is the only time all four cast members all present, it does feel like the two new characters make a spontaneous appearance. If possible, it would have been nice to have been introduced to the other characters from the get-go or to have seen some kind of recorded flashback that actualised these characters from the beginning. Unfortunately, due to the little interaction I had with the other characters, I didn’t feel as invested in their perspectives. 

Overall, I would say I did enjoy the show. However, as an avid theatregoer who jumps at the opportunity to watch performances at The Vaults, I couldn’t help but compare Dante’s in Furlough to their older shows, which I must admit I preferred. Dante’s in Furlough felt a little disjointed compared to their other theatrics and they missed out on opportunities that would have really enhanced the performance. For example, the soul collection could have been developed a little more to make it easier to gather soul stamps. 

When discussing this with the other attendee’s they shared the same sentiment: “To be honest, it felt like the soul-thing was thrown together very last minute”. Another viewer from a different group mentioned: “I was watching the other group and they seemed to get more time to collect souls than we did. Seems a bit unfair”. From these comments, it becomes clear that this portion of the show felt amiss to many in the audience.

Showing until December 30th, Dante’s in Furlough has two ticketing options: ticket only (£25) or ticket alongside a meal (£64). As a poor and lowly student, I only watched the show; however, for those wanting to treat a special someone this Halloween, I would encourage you to feast on their devilishly delicious three-course meal. Yes, it comes in vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, and dairy-free, so all you need to do is sit back and enjoy the show!

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