Title: Phase Three
Style: Immersive theatre, puzzle solving, futuristic
Where: Safehouse 1 – 139 Copeland Road, London SE15 3SN
When: 15th & 16th September
To Note: Will need to climb stairs. Some running, some darkness.
It’s several hundred years in the future, and the world is run by an evil, part-AI overlord. His disdain for those still fully human is such that he passes a law that they should be treated as pets. Your only hope is to team up with a group of rebels and try to open a portal to The Realm, a utopian land that will help you escape the nightmare.
Broken Stereo is an interesting small immersive theatre company who put on short pieces that involve an element of puzzle solving alongside their storytelling. The last piece I saw by them was in the same derelict venue (Basic Space), which was then doubling as the dwelling place of a Victorian ghost. That this space successfully doubles up as both futuristic and historic speaks to the place of abandoned buildings in our psyche, but also to the clever way the company use the space to tell stories.
Participants were divided up into three teams and each is given a guide. Mine was Winnie (Izzy Richardson) who ably led us through the tasks we needed to perform to reach utopia. She was also tasked with giving us a lot of exposition and setting up the tensions to come between her and the other rebel leaders.
The backstory was complex and probably needed either simplifying or more time devoted to helping us understand it. But despite that, there was a genuine building of tension between the three main characters. That we could hear their missions from elsewhere in the house helped to spur on our sense of competition. The atmosphere was also aided by the eeriness of the deprogrammed AI unit (Sasha Butler) who wandered blankly through the action stopping only to accept or reject passwords. We were taken around the space well and thrown into an enjoyably challenging set of quests.
There was perhaps an imbalance between the puzzle solving and the backstory in favour of the puzzles. This was the right choice as that is by far the most enjoyable aspect of the show. The tasks are well devised and tax your brain just the right amount to find solving them satisfying without being too excruciatingly hard. When my team won, I felt a genuine sense of satisfaction at a job well done.
This is a very short show, running at approximately 40 minutes, and my major complaint was that there wasn’t enough time to fully enjoy it. I felt that I was just getting into my puzzle-solving stride the moment it was time to go. I would love to see Broken Stereo get the funding to develop it further as both the imagined world they depict and the work they put into devising interesting puzzles deserve a deeper look.
Phase Three will be showing again on 15th & 16th September as part of the BasicScratch Festival. Click here for more details.