Review – Accomplice, London – Tom Salamon and Betsy Sufott at the Menier Chocolate Factor

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Once again, Twitter is dictating the shows I go to, in this case because a particularly reliable source tweeted about buying tickets shortly after they went on sale. I hadn’t heard of it, but a quick trip to the Menier’s web site and I was convinced: Sue’s enthusiasm and the Menier’s good reputation got me over the rather painful price hump (£29.50 is at the top of my price range and there was no discount for seeing a preview). It sounded fun: a kind of treasure hunt slash live action Clue game was just right up my alley. I like interactive theater; I like games; I like “promenade” events. And I like seeing shows like this first so I can get my review in off the shot (plus feel really cool about being in the know – actually, this isn’t true, in fact, I like to buy tickets for shows like this early because my gut feeling that something is going to be a sell-out is frequently on the money and I hate being shut out of something really cool in this voracious town).

I also like seeing shows in which I don’t entirely know what is going to happen beforehand. It’s that sense of mystery, you know? And this show was more mysterious than most: we didn’t even know where it was going to start more than 24 hours before the show. (The FAQ says they will call you with the starting location beforehand, and that you must have a cellphone to really do this right.) Getting that phone call is the start of the event, really, and when my phone rang (I’d forgotten I was going to get a call), I was rather surprised by the brusque, gangster-like voice on the end – given the current issues with identity fraud and phone scams, I’m afraid I was heading toward ye olde huge blowoff until they used a password that finally jogged my memory. I had my starting position, and the game was a go!

So among the things I like is a bit of mystery, right? And it’s important to me as a writer to not screw that up for other people. Maybe, later, after the show closes, I’ll write about what all happened, but today was the first day of the run and I want to not ruin it for anyone else (in fact, just telling about the phone call ruined it a bit, but it’s a small thing and much better than missing the call or hanging up on the caller). So … what can I tell you?

You will be a part of a group running around on the South Bank together, trying to reach a destination, going from place to place, getting new clues and sometimes puzzles at each stop. You will need good shoes, and I’d recommend bringing an umbrella if the weather’s inclement (also there’s one spot toward the end where you are standing near a brick wall underground that looks a little damp – it’s actually moldy and filthy and will wipe off on your clothes, so don’t wear your nice stuff). Time from start to finish is about two to three hours – my group finished in about 2 1/2, but we had the advantage of people who knew the area well (I, for example, have spent many a happy hour at Borough Market and the Boot and Flogger wine bar on Red Cross street, meaning I … had extra clue). You will be given food at some stops, and beer/Pimms at others (this was a real highlight for me, totally compensated for the ticket price); there are also a few places where those of small bladder size can make pit stops. And, if you’re really screwed, there is a number you can call if you get totally stuck – which we managed only to use at the very end (we didn’t need it, we were just being thick).

I don’t think any of the things we had to do was too ridiculously hard, or required a too-sharp knowledge of the area. I also enjoyed how it enhanced my knowledge of the neighborhood and showed me some cool new places – so it’s something that could be enjoyed by local and out-of-towner. I also enjoyed the dynamic within my group – rather than having someone trying to do everything while the rest of the group tagged behind like sheep, we had pretty much everyone interacting and contributing – a real relief for me as I tend to feel obligated to feel a leadership vacuum but much prefer to see other people working together spontaneously. ).

When it was all over, we sat around in a room drinking and laughing and comparing the “ending” with what we were expecting – had we won? Did we do it right? We were at least fast, almost half an hour faster than the previous group, and the director (Tom Salamon) asked us how we’d managed through this and that. We’d had a real problem with the first puzzle but managed to overcome it through luck, intuition, and the sharp memory of one member of our party. We hadn’t managed to really make friends within the group, but we’d become pretty social, and even though we were all strangers (well, five couples who were strangers to each other outside of the pair), we’d worked together well. So over all, it was a really fun afternoon, and I’d highly recommend it to other people who are looking for an interactive, quasi-theatrical experience that gets their brains (and their legs) working.

(This review is for a performance/event that took place on Saturday, September 4th, 2010. The show runs through January 15th, 2011 as near as I could tell from looking at the Menier’s website.)

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One Response to “Review – Accomplice, London – Tom Salamon and Betsy Sufott at the Menier Chocolate Factor”

  1. A year in blogging – Webcowgirl’s most popular posts of 2011 – and tips for improving your blog stats « Life in the Cheap Seats – Webcowgirl’s London theatre reviews Says:

    […] Review – Accomplice, London – Tom Salamon and Betsy Sufott at the Menier Chocolate Facto…979 […]

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