There are few ways of beginning a freezing February evening more enjoyable than sitting in a warm theatre waiting for the curtain to rise. And there are few ways more dispiriting than standing in a draughty tunnel beneath Waterloo station, preparing to spend the next two and a half hours trudging through the windswept streets above.
The show starts with Daniel Chrisostomou in full mockney get-up (collarless shirt, flat cap, cor-blimey accent) asking how much you remember of the violent events of the previous evening. The answer is nothing, of course, since you weren’t there. But you were, insists The Chemist, as he’s listed in the credits, despite having somewhat implausibly introduced himself as The Doctor. And this evening’s entertainment, he explains, will be all about helping recover the memory you lost after taking his mysterious serum.
Armed with an interactive website on your mobile phone and a printed map, you begin by searching the tunnel itself for answers to five clues. Two relate to graffiti painted on the tunnel walls; a couple require you to examine the entrances to local food outlets. None of the puzzles have anything to do with Jekyll, Hyde or the mysterious serum.
After a further confused exposition by The Lawyer (Tim Kennington, an exuberant cod Victorian in bowler hat and bow tie) and The Psychoanalyst (Chloe Mashiter, battling gamely with her character’s lack of plausibility) you set off to explore the streets around Waterloo, visiting locations on your map and deciphering more clues.
The clues themselves are simple enough: one has you noting the name of a side street, another reading the brewer’s name on a beer barrel, another counting the number of iron leaves on a gate. All the clues relate to existing locations; none have been planted by the production team, and none have anything whatsoever to do with the story.
One set of clues is set in an appropriately spooky graveyard, which continues the Victorian theme set up by the cast. But when you proceed from there to searching a sign relating to modern street furniture beside a statue of Nelson Mandela, the pretence falls apart. With so much Victoriana in the neighbouring streets, rubbing your face in the 21st century seems like an unnecessary anachronism. As you solve each clue you enter the answer on your phone, and completing a location requires you to select an answer at random from a meaningless multiple-choice selection relating to the events of the night before.
The cast can be found lurking around a couple of the clue locations, ready to assail you with more inconsequential, half-baked exposition. This is a real problem for the production: nothing is ever really explained, nothing makes any sense, and there’s no mention of either Jekyll or his alter-ego Hyde. The other major problem is that the clue locations are, unnecessarily, spread out hundreds of metres apart. We clocked up just under four miles in our searches, despite spending some time in the warmth of the Festival Hall foyer (where we found another cast member, also sheltering from the cold).
To inflict such a poorly-devised street-based treasure hunt on a paying audience is bad enough; to do so in February is sheer cruelty. I’ve given this show a generous two stars – the first for the gameness of the cast in braving the weather; the second for the Tony Porteous’s interactive website, which functioned perfectly.
Written by: William Drew
Produced by: Fire Hazard Games
Booking until: 22 March 2020
Box Office: 0208 050 9241
Booking Link: https://vaultfestival.com/whats-on/jekyll-and-hyde/