The Drop review – escape-room theatre show cranks up the fear factor

55 Aldgate High Street, London
Swamp Motel’s latest immersive experience has an intriguing set design and cracking sound effects but might just be too scary for some

Is it OK to want to escape a piece of theatre? The Drop is a curious blend of immersive theatre and escape-room experience and a large chunk of the show is spent trapped in a lift with an audience of three or four. Thrill-seekers might just love it but, for me, there’s something not hugely fun about being immersed in fear.

The show has been created by Clem Garritty and Ollie Jones’s theatre company Swamp Motel – the same team who produced Isklander, a fantastic trilogy of online thrillers that emerged from lockdown. With Isklander, the sense of jeopardy was a joy: easy to submit to because, no matter how real it might have felt, it could never really reach you. The Drop is more complicated.

The scares are pulled off with impressive skill and conviction, aided by some cracking sound design from Emmet O’Donnell. I spend a lot of time clutching other audience members’ hands and, at one point, even hold up a prop as protection. You’ll certainly learn a lot about how you handle fear; whether that’s something you really want to explore is, I imagine, down to individual taste.

The story comes at us in fits and starts, as we try to figure out exactly what we’re meant to be doing and whose side we’re on. But the plot is really just a sideshow to the puzzles posed in each locked room and the shocks threaded into those scenarios. They’re pretty good puzzles and create just enough of a challenge to create a hot flush of triumph with each small success.

Garritty’s set design grows in depth as the show progresses and includes a bombed-out back room and a strangely soothing perfume shop. They’re intriguing spaces that invite exploration but, unfortunately, we are given little time to linger. It all makes for a fitfully compelling adventure – one that creates a real impetus to escape but never fully locks you into the fantasy.


Miriam Gillinson

The GuardianTramp

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