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Review: Asylum Hill at Shoreditch Town Hall

PUBLISHED: 17:11 29 October 2009 | UPDATED: 15:10 05 October 2010

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by Victoria Huntley IT was with more than a little trepidation, and after several stiff drinks, that we entered the dark, vaulted cellar of Shoreditch Town Hall. Reading

by Victoria Huntley

IT was with more than a little trepidation, and after several stiff drinks, that we entered the dark, vaulted cellar of Shoreditch Town Hall.

Reading reviews of Tom Spindler's previous performances had filled us with dread and we were wholeheartedly regretting our hasty decision to go and see the walk through performance of Asylum Hill.

Previous reviewers had described friends being dragged screaming into the darkness, being flung prostrate onto a filthy, bloodstained bed and propositioned or, disturbingly, even being threatened with sexual violence.

But since his first foray into scaring the wits out of the paying customers at a disused squat - and occasionally making them sob in fear for their own safety - Spindler has gone legit. Ish.

After a whole day spent flip-flopping and U-turning, convincing ourselves and each other into and out of going, we finally handed ourselves over to Spindler and his motley crew, even signing a disclaimer absolving him from any responsibility for physical harm or psychological impact.

Stepping into the darkness, we screamed like babies and clung to each other as the warped inmates of the asylum crept out of the pitch black to whisper pleas for help into our ears and paw at us.

As our eyes grew accustomed to the dimness, we could see the shadowy figures moving between bloodstained bed sheets hung from the ceiling, creating a narrow, zigzagging corridor into the heart of the asylum.

Deranged doctors barked orders at us while babies screamed and hands grasped at us from the shadows as we made our way through the labyrinthine cellars, still clinging to each other and intermittently jumping out of our skins.

Frogmarched into a dingy room festooned with archaic medical equipment and ordered to stand in the corner, the door slammed shut and we looked on in distaste as a deranged nurse performed a backroom abortion on a sobbing young woman before thrusting a brown envelope into my hand and desperately urging us to leave, as if something even more terrible was about to happen.

Scuttling off, we heard the screams of more unsuspecting audience members before being herded by an unhinged asylum doctor down a strobe lit corridor where a disturbed, jilted bride blocked the path of anyone who wouldn't dance with her.

A moment's respite was offered when we found ourselves alone in a room, empty except for an old woman in a rocking chair who did not seem to be bothered by our presence. At first.

Suddenly she was chasing us, reaching out to grab me with her crooked cane, all the while hissing: "You smell fertile."

Hearts racing, and after 20 minutes of terror punctuated with nervous giggling and the occasional scream, we eventually managed to find our way back through the maze of zombified inmates, knife wielding doctors and lunatic clowns, out to the familiar, comforting hubbub of Old Street.

Looking down at the brown envelope my hand was still clutching, I noticed something reddish-brown seeping through the paper and realised I was holding what was presumably supposed to be the aborted embryo of the unfortunate girl in the operating theatre but what was in fact half a cooked kidney. Nice.

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