I should point out at the beginning of this review that I absolutely adore the type of entertainment known as an “Escape Room”. This is the form of entertainment where an audience of 6-10 people enter a space and are given a set of time to attempt to solve puzzled to get OUT of the space before that time is over.
So I’m very familiar with scenarios that include the idea of solving puzzles/problems before time runs out or “bad” outcomes will befall you. That is the general premise of this partly interactive, partly theatrical experience.
Essentially, welcome to a dystopian future here we are all required to be consumers and have all (apparently) attempted to rebel by failing to buy enough. So we are in danger of being removed from the system. So three of us are chosen to try and save the rest of us through a series of interactive events. The rest of us just get to sit there and watch as a sort of peanut gallery & potential talent pool combined, because if one of the original three are killed, we may be chosen next.
And so it begins.
The great part of this experience is how surprisingly detailed and in depth in becomes. There are some surprising moments. There are some tense instances. And watching the three chosen realize exactly what is going to be asked of them and when can be enormously fun.
What did not work as well was, for me, the lack of full participation. In escape rooms, EVERYONE gets involved—so for me to simply sit there and watch as others did the work…well, that did not feel sufficient for me. Also, there was someone who seemed to be an enemy and then suddenly was helping our players at every turn—and he did so with such immediate speed and repetition that I never felt that the players were in any danger of really failing. And if they can’t actually FAIL….then there’s no real free will going on, no real danger. And if there’s no danger, then this isn’t a game at all. They aren’t players. They’re actors playing parts they don’t understand at all—and that’s not something they even understand.
If that’s the GOAL, we need to know that. IF the goal is to give them the free will to succeed or fail…then we need to see them seriously have the chance to do so, or we lose that immediacy. Which is a real shame in a show that claims to demand and need exactly that.
I want to recommend the IDEA of this show, almost more than the actual production itself. I applaud what is being attempted here. But I almost feel that real-life entertainment has already forged past the level of interactivity in this entertainment, so this particular show almost feels quaint instead of the step forward it wants to be.