Title: Dead Quiet
Style: Immersive theatre, Noir
Where: Kensington Central Library, 12 Phillimore Walk, London W8 7RX
When: Saturdays at 1.45 until 13th October 2018.
To Note: Will need to climb stairs. Some running, some darkness.
Upon arrival at Kensington Central Library, you’re greeted by librarian Gwendolyn Radcliffe (Gilly Daniels). Retired now, she tells you she’s worked there for over 40 years and is still troubled by a long-forgotten crime that took place one night in 1962.
At Dead Quiet, you’re thrown into the action immediately – while still in the working part of the library. God alone knows what the ordinary punters quietly checking out books and CDs thought of our talk of long forgotten cold war intrigue between the US, Cuba, USSR and the UK, never mind the spiritual investigator Jack Daw (Ben Hale).
Eventually, we are taken to the basement of the library – not a place the public regularly see. The only problem we had with this was the excitement of some of the more local participants at wanting to explore the space rather than the plot. We were told of an unexplained death the night of a music festival in 1962 and the ghost that has haunted the library ever since.
Dead Quiet is unusual for an immersive piece as it happens in three acts and two semi-intervals. Divided into investigatory groups, in act one, each individual within the group is assigned a different character to follow, in act two, the group investigate together and in act three there is the denouement.
In between the investigatory acts, the groups came back together to swap notes, theories and anything else they have learned along the way. Who is an agent of whom? Who is working with whom?
The show is tightly plotted. With everyone following different characters in the first act, and the audience improvising their interrogation in the second, the actors do extremely well to both stay in character but also to remember just how much they have revealed to whom. The individual plots weave in and out of each other seamlessly to create an incredibly engaging and coherent whole.
Kensington Central Library is a great place to set this drama and production company ImmerCity have done well from this partnership. Just rabbit warren enough to add to the sense of intrigue and just brave enough to let the audience wander around in the semi-darkness, the staging was as tight as the scripting.
For those readers who haven’t met me before, this may be the moment to let you know I have a *slight* tendency to be a bit bossy and take-charge (my friends are now weeping with laughter at the *slight*). That was indulged to an extent by my fellow participants (I just give off an aura!) and they let me lead some of the interrogations. But we all got a reasonable crack of the whip and a good time seemed to be had by all.
A crack investigative team is only ever as strong as its weakest member and on this occasion that was most definitely me. My guesswork was a long way off – though one of my fellow participants got the ending spot on.
If I have a quibble at all with Dead Quiet it is with the third act denouement. For the first two acts, Gwendolyn and Jack are there to guide us through the drama and help us to reach our conclusions about what has happened.
But at the end, this is Gwendolyn’s tale. And it is her that takes us through the “Poirot” moment, unmasking the killer and revealing the plot.
I would have prefered for the audience to have been forced to make a decision about who the killer was before it was revealed. Even if – like me – we got it completely wrong. It was just a slightly less immersive end to what had up to that point been a spot-on experience.
But that is a minor note, not a major flaw. Dead Quiet was a genuinely fun and enjoyable way to spend my Saturday afternoon. It’s noir atmosphere and complex storyline kept me enthralled throughout.
Dead Quiet is showing at the Kensington Central Library until October 13th. Click here for more information.