Review: Jekyll/Hyde

Credit: Sophia Romualdo

Style: Victorian puzzle solver
Where: Various locations around Waterloo starting at the Vaults.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Not suitable for those with mobility issues.

What did you do last night? We’ll we’ve all had those mornings. Where we piece together the debauchery that took place the night before as we crawl into our cornflakes with shame. That’s the basic premise of Jekyll/Hyde.

Much like it’s predecessor show 80 Days, A Real World Adventure this is as much an interactive game as it is an immersive experience. Similarly, you run around an area of London with a map and your phone answering clues and making choices about how you want to proceed as you discover more and more about your dastardly deeds from the night before under the influence of mad scientist Frey (a delightfully impish Daniel Chrisostomou).

Along the way you are also helped by the coldly experimental Goldmann (Chloe Mashiter) who makes you feel under a microscope just by looking at you and a sweet and well-meaning lawyer Edmonton (Tim Kennington).

Daniel Chrisostomou as Frey. Credit Sofia Romualdo.

My key tip would be to dress warmly. Most of the clues are outside and while you will be racing around a lot, you definitely need layers to make sure you’re in any fit state to answer them.

The clues themselves are challenging enough to be interesting and hard to solve while also being solvable enough not to lead to severe frustrations. Just like 80 days, they offer a chance to get a unique perspective on a place you’ve probably been a million times. I definitely learned much while enjoying myself hugely.

For me, the ending wasn’t quite as sharp as previous Fire Hazard shows and as such the experience slightly petered out. I also wonder again how repeatable the experience is – as once you know the answers it would be hard to have the same level of experience. That may come to be a crimp in the business model of Fire Hazard. Lots of immersive works by having people come back to visit the world time and time again, and while I would love to replicate the night out we enjoyed, I don’t know that this is possible.

Tim Kennington. Credit Sofia Romualdo

But having said that, this was a cracking night out. That’s why I would want to replicate it. The atmosphere created by the superb cast as well as the challenge of the game was enormous fun and the time flew by. I could have gone on for hours more.

Jekyll/Hyde works best when done by a pair or in a small group. It’s an enormous laugh and one best shared with a friend. It’s running throughout the Vaults festival and if you get the chance I highly recommend it. Go along, learn about Waterloo and it’s surrounding areas, laugh your (thick woolly) socks off and decide exactly what kind of punishment you deserve for being the animal brought out by Frey’s elixir.

Review: Crooks 1926

L-R: Holli Dillon, Angus Woodward, Simon Pothecary. Credit: Michael Kaltenborn.

Style: 1920s caper
Where: King William IV, 16 Harper Road, London SE1 6AD

Rating: 5/5 stars

Colab have done it again. Once again, they offer an immersive experience so gripping, so engaging and so thrilling that the audience could have done it twice over and not noticed the time go.

It’s 1926 and the General Strike is on. Various unions are threatened over a debt owed to a cruel and vicious landlord. But revolution is in the air, and so the workers come together to formulate a daring plan. The heist is on.

This caper has pretty much everything you can imagine. There are several daring raids (pulled off only if the audience gets it right), rigged racing, a fight, a wedding, negotiation, speeches, villains, heroes and a stonking bar. there is not a moment during which you aren’t busy. There is not a moment during which you aren’t engaged. There is not a moment where you aren’t challenged. There are puzzles to solve in three separate areas and you get a chance to take part in all of them as the night progresses.

Tom Black. Credit: Michael Kaltenborn.

Everything is pitched just right. This is the hallmark of Colab productions. The level of detail and thought put into every aspect of their shows makes them just a different level of immersive. From the set design and props to the detailed thought that goes into every aspect of the audience’s experience they always deliver in spades and Crooks 1926 is no exception. The storyline never gets in the way of the challenges, the challenges never get in the way of the story. It is managed as if an “on rails” experience, yet it is audience-driven and feels wholly organic.

Crooks 1926 kept me gripped throughout. In some ways, I almost missed the moments I’ve had in other shows to quietly take myself out of the action and explore the set, but there was just far too many interesting and fun things to do. Not least, dance at my wedding (yes, of course I was the bride!)

The cast are superb. They managed the audiences – leading us when we needed it, sitting back and letting us lead them when the time was right to do so. When moving the storyline on they made it feel completely natural that they were doing so. Their responsiveness to audience decisions was razor-sharp and their ability to herd us from A-B without is ever feeling them do so is uncanny.

Crooks 1926 is a fantastic night out. And at £28 for a two and half hour show it’s an absolute steal (and it’s great to see immersive produced at an accessible price range). If you have ever been tempted to try immersive theatre but haven’t yet, this is an incredibly accessible production. If – like me – you’re an old hand, this has everything you’re looking for.

I cannot recommend this belter of a show highly enough. Go see it. Do it now.

Review: Red Palace

Teddy Lamb as Wolf. Photo by Nic Kane.

Style: Burlesque Fairy Tale
Where: The Vaults

Rating: 4/5 stars

Brought to the Vaults by the same people who brought us Divine Proportions I was a little nervous about Red Palace. However, despite having a few issues hearing the actors over the dining portion of the event, the company had clearly taken some of the issues on board. This even had a little interaction over the dinner – but as this was optional, there was plenty of action during the main show which took place after dinner. It was well lit, well amplified and more importantly well-staged, directed and written.

The story was quite simple and classic. Macbeth as delivered through classic Fairy Tale characters. It had elements throughout of intrigue, audience participation, cabaret and puzzle solving – all my favourite parts of immersive theatre. The action zips along nicely and the different scenes are well played. The space is complicated and the queuing between scenes was sometimes a little awkward. It also meant that sometimes the noise from one scene bled into the action of another which could be distracting.

My other question is on the burlesque element, which I am not convinced brought a lot to the show. I am never quite sure how I feel about burlesque. Is it simply a way of dressing up stripping as something more modern or is it empowering and sexy? And if it is, why aren’t men doing it? The dancers here were definitely powerful and danced brilliantly, so if burlesque is your thing then I am sure this added element would definitely enhance your experience.

Nic Kane Photography

What worked especially well was the layered experience of each room adding elements to the story. As the audience all saw these elements in different orders, it was well written that these never seemed confused or out of order. Someone who – for example – went into the forest at their first shot may have a very different understanding throughout than those of us who started at the gingerbread bar, but the different experiences enhanced rather than hindered the overall show.

This is a really fun experience. The food is an optional extra but it is genuinely delicious and definitely worth it. The performances were all superb with enough wit in their improvisation to show that the actors had done in-depth character thinking and understood what would normally be considered archetypes. For me the standout was Emily Essery as Red, but overall the quality was high and the thought that had gone into the show was obvious.

Review: Souvenir

Emma cast and guests 2.JPGStyle: Hyper-real, deeply intimate drama
Where: Various

Rating: 5/5 stars

Surprise parties are the worst aren’t they? They’re always either not a surprise or not particularly welcome. I’m such an event planner, no one will ever be able to throw me a surprise party as I plan literally every big event months in advance. So luckily this will never happen to me.

However, at Souvenir, I found myself attending a surprise 30th birthday party. Held by Richard (Damian Gildea) for his partner Anna (Sonya Cullingford) ably assisted by her best friend Margot (Bonnie Adair). It is fair to say, that by the end of the drama, Anna is not the only one in for a surprise.

Brought to you by the same people who made the superb Recollection this is a drama that plays again with our understanding of memories, how they make us who we are and how as we continue to curate them online, we may change how they behave offline.

This is a powerful and intense drama made even more so for the daring gambit of the fact that each performance is created in a punter’s home (reveal: on this occasion it was mine). You go to a real house, stand by their real stove and that makes the moving story of the party that becomes so much more, so much more real to you.

It’s an astonishing experience. One made more intimate by the detritus of a real person’s flat. Of watching the action take place while standing next to the stove. by watching things fall apart, knowing that that space has probably seen its own share of domestics, tears, recriminations.

This is a great experience and a moving piece of work that is daringly staged. I highly recommend going to a performance near you. And if there isn’t one – host one!

Preview: Bridge Command

fe1752e4-3eab-409e-9353-81c60b528862One of the nicest things about writing this blog is how much I have got to know some of the immersive theatre community. In particular, I have become an ardent admirer and fan of the work that comes out of Colab Factory.

In part, this is because the central cast and crew are just so bloody nice. In part, it’s because their shows are so well put together and thoughtful. But mostly, it’s because they combine these two factors into the centrally important, overriding element that makes immersive theatre work: they put the audience’s experience at the heart of what they do.

Writing a review without spoilers is tough enough. Writing a preview even harder. But I will do my best.

Last week I was privileged to spend an afternoon with the team as they blocked out, rehearsed and tested their latest adventure Bridge Command. Part computer game, part immersive spaceship simulation, this short family-oriented show gives the small (6 person) audience/crew the change to learn a set of computer-based roles and systems and make game-changing decisions.


The rehearsal process was fascinating as the actors both had to facilitate the action enough to ensure they were learning new things each time they ran through the scene but also remember that they were testing how usable the technology was for an audience facing it for the first time.

One thing that hadn’t occurred to me was that they have to rehearse for different types of audience. In this case from kids hyped up on sugar to drunken stag dos. Watching them do so was both revealing and fascinating and has made me vow to make sure my gin money is spent mostly after the performances from now on!

In the show, all the tropes of space travel fun are engaged. The technology is challenging at first – part of the testing is ironing that out – but when you get to grips with it, there is much fun to be had. Each member of the crew faces different challenges as per their assigned role and overall, each will contribute to the joint success or failure of the venture.

I saw Bridge Command while still in rehearsal so am aware only of its potential (and let’s face it, as a Colab project it has a lot of potential) but can absolutely see not only how enjoyable it will be as a family experience, but how much I hope I will get to take along my computer-loving nephew one day.

Review: Tracing Erased Memories

IMG_20190809_201240Style: Technology-enabled walking tour
Where: Central London

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Tracing Erased Memories is a concept that attempts to put you in the shoes of young, enthusiastic, impassioned protestors and their personal testimonies of mistreatment at the hands of the police. The experience is a guided journey, where a guide steers you from Trafalgar Square to Parliament Square while you listen on headphones to speakers from the London Student riots of 2010 and the Cairo Riots of 2011.

As you walk, you see a similar journey filmed between Talaat Harb Square and Tahrir Square in Cairo joining the two pieces on a similar journey. Watching the street you aren’t on while walking a place as familiar as Whitehall was discombobulating but that also allowed you to get into the more nervous mindset of the protestor – particularly one unused to protest.

The stories of the protest were interesting. Every now and again you would stop and hear someone tell of the way they were treated – either by strangers or the police – both in Cairo and London. The multi-media presentation blended news footage, animation and new video with the sound of the stories and the street.

This is a very interesting way to spend an hour and to think about protest, protestors and the reaction to them. The show has a point of view, and it is presented well. Even when I didn’t agree with the point of view of the protestors (there was some conspiratorial thinking that I am pretty confident isn’t true) I understood what was driving them to feel that way. the presentation of the violence of the state was impressively intimidating and while I have gone on many, many protests in my time, I have never been kettled and it was moving to hear the pain of those who had. For that to be their early experience of asking for their voices to be heard in a democracy.


The show is unabashedly presented from a left-wing perspective. This, of course, suits me down to the ground. But I do think there might be mileage to hear from the voices of those who protest from the opposite perspective. Not becuase I would ever wish to be –  or have anyone be –  persuaded by their arguments, but because I think the contrasts and similarities of experience would be fascinating. Imagine doing a similar project, but with those who marched against education cuts on the one hand and in support of Tommy Robinson on the other. What could each side teach each other about their shared experiences?

But that’s a minor thought and doesn’t distract from the interest or power of the original. It’s a journey that has easy distractions, as you weave around tourists guided by your guide and watching your Cairo counterpart’s journey. This is an ongoing project that has been developed first in Amsterdam and now in the UK and Cairo. Part art installation, part immersive walking tour it is interesting and engaging. You can see much potential in the idea and the concept and I look forward to seeing where they take it next.