If you think the Time Portal is an attempt to promote Stella Artois and Wimbledon, you are probably right. However, it’s also lots of fun and well put together. Immersive theatre group Les Enfants Terribles – responsible for last year’s magical Alice’s Adventures Underground – have created a 40-minute adventure that takes you back to Victorian London. To 1877, to be precise, the year when the Wimbledon tournament was first held, and the Belgian beer Stella Artois was introduced to Britain.
When you first arrive at the venue in Dalston (make sure to arrive in plenty of time to drink your first complimentary glass of Stella), you hang around in the bar until your appointed time, at which point a genial tennis fan introduces himself. He takes you to his time machine and sends you back to 1877, at which point the adventure proper begins.
The performance takes the form of a quest for a tennis racket, and it’s really impressive how much it manages to pack in. The measure of any immersive theatre company is how well they manage to, well, immerse you, and considering the show was only forty minutes I was impressed by how quickly I managed to feel a part of things. I actually do put this partly down to the booze – I honestly think it helped to loosen everyone up and make them more amenable to joining in. During my short stay in 1877 I managed to meet Sherlock Holmes and Ebenezer Scrooge, watch a magic show, learn the art of pickpocketing, get arrested and watch the very first Wimbledon final.
The world Les Enfants Terribles has created is gloriously detailed, from the Victorian market stalls to the costumes of the actors. Any fan of Victoriana would love the show. At the end, you are spilled out into a basement bar where you can choose to remain and watch the tennis if you so wish – if not, you can do what I did, head home with a grin on your face as you remember the fun you’ve just had.