Before the event
I make no secret of the fact that I’m a big fan of A Door in a Wall, so when they announced an extra show beyond their usual two a year, I was excited. So excited, in fact, that I snapped up tickets a couple of minutes after they were put on sale, which was fortunate because they sold out in well under thirty minutes. In retrospect, it’s not surprising – they usually sell out most nights on their 30+ date biannual game, so releasing a single set of three dates was always going to result in ticket shortage.
It wasn’t until a couple of days before the show that I metaphorically got the tickets out and noticed that there was a dress code, albeit an optional one. If you’re booked in and you haven’t noticed, make sure you wear black and white. It’s by no means essential, but it adds to the experience and most people seemed to join in.
The story revolves around the upcoming wedding of the daughter of Lord and Lady Blight. You’re asked by the best man to investigate some suspicions he has about the Blight family – wander their mansion, talk to the people, solve the puzzles and, ultimately, decide whether or not the wedding should take place.
The Dead Doll’s House
We turned up a few minutes early only to be told that there was no access until precisely 6:30pm, so we sat down on a bench across the road to wait. When we sauntered back across a few minutes after half past, a fair queue had built up. What we didn’t realise is that there’s a bottleneck as soon as you walk in, which really slows down proceedings. I hope they do something to improve that but, to be on the safe side, I think it’s worth turning up five minutes early and queuing. It’s a bit like a theme park – if you get in early, you can zoom through the first couple of rides.
Yes, I might as well get the negative out of the way first: there’s some queuing in this game. It’s never very bad, and there was enough time – just – to get through the whole game, but it was a little frustrating. Unlike the outdoor A Door in a Wall events, where the teams are physically very spread out, here we were all crammed into one building, which meant that, in order to make it obvious we were queuing, we had to go relatively close to the other teams. Aside from that being a little bit frustrating, it also results in the odd spoiler. If it were my choice, I’d have bumped up the price slightly and removed one or two teams from the equation, but it’s a reasonable compromise and it mostly wasn’t an issue.
In fact, I was pleasantly surprised at how much theatre there was in this performance – there were, I think, ten different actors you talked to – several of them more than once – as well as the usual combination of uncovering information and doing something fun and silly. I don’t know whether I’ve become more comfortable with their games, or if the setup was more geared to it, but I definitely felt that I went off script more often than in previous shows, throwing random curve balls to the characters, which they easily handled.
As seems to be becoming a theme with their productions, they’d picked a wonderful venue with a wonderful name – this time the Dead Dolls House. Set over three floors with a variety of rooms and nooks and crannies, it’s a perfect venue. They’d spruced the place up a little with their own decoration, but it’s already well kitted out for this game with an elegant black and white theme – something that’s presumably critical given they’re running a single night at a time.
As someone who’s come from the puzzling side of the genre, via escape rooms, I was a little disappointed by the relatively straightforward puzzles in this event. They were mostly very simple and almost always telegraphed. One particular let-down was that they told you exactly where the clues were, whereas in such a small space, I’d have left the audience to find them themselves while exploring the mansion. They were still fun, though, with their usual injection of humour and high-tech elements.
At the end, it all came together with the wedding scene – a perfect way to finish this game. “Dearly beloved we are gathered here…” We got to see the whole cast again, watch the story unfold and finally find out the truth behind the mystery.
There’s no prize – indeed you don’t even hand in your answers – but what I can confirm is that we managed to complete all the trails, spot all the clues, mix them together and solve the mystery, with us finally putting it all together at 9:59pm – a whole minute to spare! They’ve had one public play test so far, but it’s pretty clear they’ve judged it well – we went quickly but rarely rushed, so pushing up against the wire is about right.
I love what A Door in a Wall have done with this. Adding a bonus event was always going to make me happy, but I really like the fact that I can play this game and recommend it to my friends in time for them to still be able to book tickets (well, once more go on sale!). By moving to a single venue, they’ve removed weather from the equation and, much to my surprise, it managed to work, without feeling like we were in each other’s pockets. For me, it was a little lacking on the puzzle front, but they more than made up for it with the massive amount of immersive theatre. There are so many memorable moments that I wish I could share with you… but instead you’ll just have to head down to the Dead Doll’s House and see if you can uncover a Veiled Threat.