Menier Chocolate Factory, London SE1
Opened 16 September, 2010

Do not be misled by the venue attribution. Tom Salamon's intricate, ingenious piece takes place across much of Southwark, on streets, by the river and in a variety of premises. Without giving too much away, the "audience" for each afternoon performance slot – four or five at a time – are recruited by a sinister voice on the phone to meet at a designated place and time in order to complete a mastercrime, solving clues treasure-hunt-style and encountering a series of associates of the original perp as we make our way to the hidden booty.
This is one of those cases where detailed description would spoil the enjoyment of those who might come after, without adding much to the understanding of other readers. Suffice it to say that, after two hours or so, I was carrying a map of Tate Modern, a series of word-game cards, a batch of photographs, a Kinder Surprise-type gift pellet, a rubbing from a mural engraving, half a page torn out of an old edition of Paradise Lost and a highly cryptic serving suggestion for crumpets. My cohorts had also acquired several mysteriously etched coins, a playing card, another batch of photos, a combination-locked pocket safe and an old disinfecting kit. Eating a soft whipped ice cream proved to be an essential stage in the quest; the group preceding us fell behind due to their confectionery reservations, and by the end our two quads were working in concert. Even so, and with the combined might of half a dozen critics from assorted publications, we allowed ourselves to be distracted by red herrings and just failed to crack the final code.
This is not theatre, but it is drama; not a play, but play. The accounts of the various conspirators we meet are part-character comedy, part-clue and entirely devoid of profundity. Above all else – though there is very little else – the event is great fun. In inclement weather I can imagine it dragging, but just as the summer sun turns autumnal and breezes on the south bank of the Thames are fresh but not yet cold, it is an immensely enjoyable way to spend an afternoon, whether with friends or strangers. Oh... and you haven't seen me and I didn't tell you this, all right?
Written for the Financial Times.

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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