The Swell Mob @ Adelaide Cabaret Festival Review

'The Swell Mob' plays at 2019 Adelaide Cabaret Festival until 22 June. 'The Swell Mob' plays at 2019 Adelaide Cabaret Festival until 22 June.

Season 3 of the HBO sci-fi hit series 'Westworld' doesn’t air until 2020; instead of staying home this winter and binge watching the previous two seasons of the acclaimed drama, catch the train into the Adelaide Cabaret Festival and experience it for yourself at The Swell Mob.


Don’t worry, there are no killer robots. Just an interactive theatre piece that will knock you dead, if you let it.

The Swell Mob, the award-winning immersive experience created by the UK’s Flabbergast Theatre, is a difficult show to review, as each audience member will walk away with a perception of the work shaped by the choices they made and, perhaps more importantly, their willingness to engage with the fictional world.

All audience members climb the same staircase to enter The Swell Mob’s domain, and everyone gives their name to the unhinged cashier at the door, Penny, receiving a cloth bag of currency.

From there, your paths diverge, like a choose-your-own-adventure book or an open-world roleplaying game.


As with life, the amount you inherit upon entering is beyond your control, but how you spend what you have is almost entirely up to you. Also, as with life, you get back what you put into it.

This is not a 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' kind of show, where you cross your arms and say “here we are now, entertain us”. If you remain passive, you will likely walk away disappointed.

While there are some set-piece moments, ranging from operatic arias to simulated bare-knuckle boxing, most of the fun resides in the cracks in-between those moments. You just need to look for them.

A friend and I spent our first pound on receiving a bawdy dance from a lass with ginger ringlets and a cockney accent, before being ferried to the card table where a duplicitous dealer was presiding over a game of barrow – where you could double your money or lose it all. I ended the hour with nothing, my friend had oodles to spare.

Others sought to convert their handful of pounds into a mass of wealth by performing challenges for the cashier, by bartering; some chose theft and outright aggression.

The performers, skilled as they are, are not the most fascinating characters in this story. If you are a fan of people watching, of observing human interactions as you ride public transport, this is the show for you.

When the conventional rules of society are removed, a person’s true character is revealed. There were some glimpses of true ugliness: a petulant man who aggressively bullied the card dealer; the lady who, eyes aflame with greed, fought with the cashier over a fistful of pound notes.

This is a show that you should take your Tinder match to, or perhaps your fiancé; if you are still attracted to them after the show, then they are the one for you. You can’t see this show, you can only be in this show; join the mob, if you have a chance and then go your own way.

★★★★★

'The Swell Mob' plays at 2019 Adelaide Cabaret Festival until 22 June.

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