Secret Theatre Project, a secret location

By guest critic Michaela Clement-Hayes

Rule number one: We do not ask questions about Project Mayhem.
Rule number two: We do not ask questions about Project Mayhem.

And of course, we do not talk about Project Mayhem, which makes it fairly tricky to review Secret Theatre Project. I mean I don’t want them to kill me, or my loved ones. And anyway I’m 100% committed to the cause…unlike most of the audience who stood around like gormless children getting embarrassed if anyone spoke to them. 

Secret Theatre Project is a bit like Secret Cinema. You go to be involved, immersed, engaged. Speak to anyone and everyone, try a little bit harder than the rest and above all – join in! I’ll be honest, I wasn’t expecting physical exercise, but we take it in our stride try our hardest, and were awarded with a wrist band for a free drink – apparently something most people didn’t get.  

There are other activities, which don’t go quite as well. One involves us using our brains, but we aren’t given much attention so left to go and create something far more useful.  

It’s a nice idea – provide activities and then perform a play that involves the audience. Except if the audience don’t want to be involved, it falls flat. This of course isn’t the fault of the producers or actors, but the audience. However, it does make the atmosphere less electric when only a handful of people are shouting, cheering and throwing themselves into the production (and less than 10% of people made any kind of effort to dress up).  

Perhaps the lack of enthusiasm is due to the rather brutal nature of the performance – this is not a show for the faint-hearted. As usual we are at the front, trying to dodge the fake blood and saliva that finds its way onto your clothes. Violence isn’t my favourite subject, but this is quite well done, believable and grotesque without being too glamourised.

The actors are good, throwing themselves into the performance wholeheartedly and bringing the story (which most people, myself excluded, will know). Effects and drama are impressive, but as is often the case with other immersive shows, there are too many people and not enough activities. This makes for a lot of standing around.

That said, it’s something a bit different and if you’re willing to throw yourself into the action and into character it’s great fun. However, it’s not quite exciting enough to leave you feeling as exhilarated as you should after the finale.

Secret Theatre Project runs through 21 August.

The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon. 

 

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