Pros: An immersive theatre show in which you get to challenge the actors in your quest to reveal the truth
Cons: The cramped library setting sometimes makes it hard to witness all the events
It’s 1962, and Kensington Central Library is host to a sparsely-attended lecture on Cuban music – coinciding with the Cuban missile crisis, during which the world came as close as it has ever been to all-out nuclear war. A man is found murdered shortly after the lecture; he’s the same man who challenged the Cuban speaker on an abstruse musical detail at the end of the lecture.
Who committed the crime? Was it the lecturer, the dashing young photographer, the glamorous model or the mousy academic? And how does the tangle of CIA, KGB, MI5 and Cuban intelligence affiliations relate to the killing?
You’re welcomed to this latest immersive mystery from the innovative ImmerCity theatre company by the librarian Gwendolyn, who was present on that fateful evening, and who has spent the intervening half century trying to unravel the mystery. She introduces you to the ‘master of the supernatural’ Jack Daw, who has the ability to bring the past to life.
You work in teams of six, each choosing a different character to shadow. In the first part of the three-hour show you follow this character through the bowels of the library, watching and making mental notes as they interact with all the other protagonists. Gradually, piece by piece, you build up a sense of the relationship between all these shady operatives.
At the midpoint, you reconvene with your groups to discuss your findings over tea and biscuits, and to try to unravel the tangled web of mystery you’ve separately witnessed.
In the third act, you get to interrogate each of the characters for five minutes in order to tease out the truth. But they’re far from willing subjects: reluctant, suspicious and at times belligerent, they resent your questioning and you’ll need all your subtlety and subterfuge to reveal their real motives.
This is immersive theatre like no other, in which you not only witness the action but get to challenge the performers directly. Their ability to stay in character throughout the questioning process is remarkable, and no less impressive is the sheer logistics of guiding each actor to their next interaction while being trailed by half a dozen audience members.
The limitations of access to the library means that the show takes place only on Saturday afternoons, between 1.45 and 4.30. With an audience limited to just 36 participants, it’s hard to see how the show can be financially rewarding for the company; but the performers are clearly enjoying themselves, and this is a unique opportunity for them to hone not only their close-quarters performances – the audience is literally within inches of the action at all times – but their improvisation skills as well.
The setting of the cramped basement library shelves is less visually stunning than the magnificent Victorian pump house location of their earlier show, The Silhouette in the Smoke (link: http://everything-theatre.co.uk/2018/01/the-silhouette-in-the-smoke-london-museum-of-water-and-steam-review.html), returning to the original venue for several nights in October – but the intrigue is just as high; Rosanna Mallinson’s assured direction of David Knight’s taut script results in an utterly compelling afternoon’s entertainment.
Author: David Knight
Director: Rosanna Mallinson
Booking until: 13 October
Booking Link: immer-city.com