Enter The Labyrinth

Last year I went to Lazarides’ inaugural exhibition at the recently re-opened Old Vic Tunnels – forgotten catacombs deep below Waterloo station.  That event, “Hell’s Half Acre,” was themed around the concept of Dante’s Inferno, and was one of the most powerful art events I’d ever attended.  So when I heard Lazarides were doing another exhibition at the same location, themed around the ancient Greek myth of “The Minotaur,” I jumped at the chance to go with esteemed art critic Tamsin Dart.

The event is so popular, that you have to book a 15-minute arrival slot.  I got there early, so had a lovely coffee at Greensmiths on Lower Marsh Road.  Thus fortified, I headed down the Station Approach Road to the Tunnels’ entrance.  The area has a gritty edge to it – the scent of aerosol fills the air as graffiti artists ply their trade in the adjoining tunnel, one of the few places in London where they are encouraged, rather than punished, to show their talents.

A few pieces really stood out.  Entering the exhibition through dark curtains, you are confronted by a horse that could be a steed from hell.  Nearby, a sinister mannequin, dressed like a Nigerian pimp, carries a machete and noose with a goat’s skull for a head (it made me think of the daemonic dark judges from the Judge Dredd comics).  A pool of oil reflected a projection on a screen (a technique which was used in Hell’s Half Acre) resulting in images that resembled jellyfish, vaginas and the titled Minotaur.  A short film of Matadors spearing bulls and being gored played to jolly fairground music entirely at odds with the images on the screen (I couldn’t help but think of the scene in Man With The Golden Gun, in which Roger Moore was pursued through a fun-park by a midget and Christopher Lee).  Round the corner was a massive cross, hanging from the ceiling, upon which hung a Minotaur, with nails piercing his entire body, and votive candles beneath it.  The Vermin Death Star looked like an old naval mine – except that it was made entirely of resin rats.

But it was the setting that made the whole exhibition more powerful and disturbing.  Otherwise innocuous exhibits suddenly seem more sinister for the assault on your senses– the constant rumble from the trains going overhead; the sound of sirens on the roads outside, the side-rooms that look like someone was just tortured there; the musty smell of the space; strange music filling the air and lights at unusual angles catching haze.

We had a drink in the bar, but were unable to sample the excellent food of Pret A Diner – it had been booked out months in advance.  So we headed down The Cut in search of grub and headed into Livebait instead.  Brilliant little booths and tiled walls made you feel somewhere between an American Diner and a Brighton chippie.  We went for the pottered shrimp (which was incredibly buttery), the cod bites (the fresh parsley was a brilliant touch) and the chorizo and octopus stew (we ordered extra bread to mop it all up!) all washed down with a well-chosen Viognier!

Minotaur is only on for a few more days.  If you can get tickets, then go – it’s an experience you’ll always remember.  If you can’t then sign up to the Old Vic Tunnels newsletter, and make the most out of this unique venue.