The website of the King & the Minotaur is a maze itself, giving away not much more than the chance to “engage with a rare piece of architecture that would otherwise be cut off from public access” and a “unique collection of art and performance”. But perhaps I should have been suspicious of anything calling itself “London’s premier pop-up labyrinth”. Tongue-in-cheek, I hope.
The said labyrinth is in no-man’s land near St Pancras Hospital. After being let in by a bouncer on the street, myself and two friends wait in a cobbled yard outside an old stable building, admiring a large Mary Poppins-type installation of suspended black umbrellas. One of my friends is pulled into the stable by a young woman in waif get-up — more unintentional theatreland references? She puts a butcher’s apron on my friend, giggles and promptly shuts the door, leaving the rest of us outside contemplating the prospect of an evening of participatory am-dram tiresomeness.
After the waif deigns to let the remainder of us in and we manage to give her the slip and rescue our friend, things can only improve. We’re in a sawdust-, straw- and grit-filled space separated by translucent walls, like giant silkscreens. However the aforementioned grit, discordant electronic sound art, random projections and small, inscrutable, mostly unremarkable sculptures have the whiff of cliché. There’s even something familiar about the huffing, puffing dancers in knickers and wellies dotted throughout the labyrinth, restlessly stomping around being horses.
The labyrinth is visually and aurally crowded. But in a dark corner, at last some quiet, beautiful, allegorical relief: a pale woman sits sullenly knitting, wearing a big, heavy bovine headdress and the knickers and wellies combo seen earlier. I imagine she is Ariadne and the Minotaur combined.
Just when I’ve decided I’m not really sure about all this, I end up in a bar. Stylistically and theatrically well-executed, it’s the event’s pièce de résistance. Dramatic lighting, chains, ladders, glass, expensive gin and cheap straw bales do not make for comfort, but still, a welcome rest at the end of a convoluted journey.
The King & the Minotaur runs until 30 April. www.thekingandtheminotaur.com