After enjoying a Door in a Wall, which is a baby step into immersive theatre, it was inevitable that at some point I’d remove the puzzle element and try something that was pure and simple immersive theatre.
That said, I was never going to be entirely comfortable with being immersed in theatre. In some sense what I like about puzzling is the certainty it brings – find the rules and you’ll know what to do. The idea of having to just make it up left me slightly unnerved, but experiences at a Door in a Wall made me realise that I quite enjoyed it too. To finally convince me though, I needed something that looked exciting. Enter CoLab Theatre’s Hostage.
The story had started unfolding in their previous performances, where you’re on the side of Astra in an invisible war against the ETF, a secretive and and dangerous government organisation. This time round Astra has been taken hostage and your mission is to rescue him. You’ll need to track enemy operatives through the streets of London, infiltrate the ETF base, dodge their guards, get past their security and ultimately try to get Astra out alive.
That was all we knew when we booked, but subsequent emails gave a tiny bit more information, some of which made us slightly nervous: “Be prepared to run”. “Common laws still apply”. “This experience is not for the faint hearted”. Any time that a production has to remind you that common law still applies, probably means it’s going to be fairly immersive…
So how did it pan out? Forgive me if what little I do say about the event is vague, but I really don’t want to spoil it for anyone that attends. We turned up near Waterloo station at the appointed hour and made contact with our handler, who gave us our briefing and guided us through the initial stages of the evening.
Half way through the hour long event, I was enjoying it, but not quite as much as I’d hoped. We’d done some fun stuff, but it felt slightly awkward (or possibly as agents we just weren’t very good!) and stop/start. Then things started to change and flow arrived – the performers (including ourselves!) became more confident and it really felt like we were in the middle of the show. No, not in the middle of the show; we were part of the show.
That final half hour was an adrenaline rush as the pressure amped up. I imagine plenty of participants scream at some point, most feel uncomfortable and everyone’s heart is racing. As I quoted above – “this experience is not for the faint hearted”. True words.
When the mission was complete we had a final debrief, were given a small memento and that was it. No applause for the performers, barely even a chance to say thank you, just us running off into the darkness, hearts still beating fast and memories awash with unique experiences.
We sat in the restaurant afterwards discussing what had happened, comparing our view points, reliving fun moments, coming up with ways in which we wish our performances had been better and generally realising just how much we’d all thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
And when I woke up at 2am, stressed about chasing enemy agents and rescuing hostages, I wondered if Post Traumatic Theatre Disorder might be a thing.