Review: The Game’s Afoot at Madame Tussauds

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Les Enfants Terribles, the immersive theatre company behind Alice’s Adventures Underground, is back with a real treat for any Sherlock fan.

Enter Madame Tussauds your average eager theatre-goer, and reemerge into Baker Street as Scotland Yard’s newest recruit. As Sherlock is out of town, it is your job – armed with a notepad, pen and special personal clue from the man himself – to solve the case and put the culprit behind bars. In this real-life Cluedo, there are two cases, running on alternate nights, to choose from: The Case of the Poisonous Poet or The Case of the Bloodthirsty Beast. As yours truly was lucky enough to see the former, it is predominantly with this case in mind that the following feedback should be taken.

The ability to sift through the victim’s wallet in the morgue, examine Sherlock’s letter in his study or take a sneaky peek at one of the suspect’s belongings in their absence is what really creates the brilliant immersive atmosphere of this experience. A real importance is also placed on the audience’s role as interrogators – it is no use just quietly admiring the space, you need to put in the work, go out there and put all your suspects under pressure.

However, there is not a minute to waste, as you only have an hour to solve the mystery. Having previously attended immersive productions which have lasted up to three hours, The Game’s Afoot would certainly have benefitted from allowing its audience members a little longer to simply roam around and take it all in. For the real star of this production is its set and the design team’s stunning attention to detail. In particular, Sherlock’s study, in which one could happily spend at least half the hour. The space would have been even more impressive if areas such as the chemist’s or the library – or rather just a wheelbarrow of books – were similarly expanded, to allow the audience to rummage through them. I suspect that limitations must have come from the venue itself, which perhaps makes a less showbiz location a better future choice. Punchdrunk’s transformation of an old disused warehouse into a thrilling four-floor maze in their 2013 immersive production of The Drowned Man serves as a model example.

Praise must go the actors for responding to audience members’ interrogations in a manner entirely appropriate to their characters, even when questions got tough. Whilst individual characters were certainly well-established, there seemed a distinct lack of interaction between the actors themselves. I only saw characters converse with one another on two brief occasions before the finale, which seems somewhat absurd for a piece of theatre. The characters needed real motives and the actors more direction than just waiting for someone to approach them – the actress Cecilia Rhodes literally spent the entire hour sitting in a train carriage. Perhaps the inclusion of more communal spaces and characters who were neither suspects, nor policemen could have allowed for a more developed plot. That said, a special mention must go to Richard Holt, who stole the show in the finale and brilliantly executed moments of subtle interaction throughout.

Last thing to beware of – the case is very tricky to solve. Once you get a whiff of the right track, the interrogation process become truly thrilling, but it’s easy to just spend your time wandering around, confused by the abundance of Red Herrings. However, the backstory behind the case was actually very impressive and well-thought out, despite being so deeply hidden. And I am sure you’ll be pleased to know that while most online reviewers admit to cuffing the wrong suspect, your faithful Edge writer did indeed manage to crack the case.

All in all, The Game’s Afoot is a real gem of an experience, with just a little need of polishing. Not only does it offer a guided way into immersive theatre, but it is guaranteed to transport you back to Victorian London, where an evening of sleuthing fun awaits.

The Game’s Afoot is showing at Madame Tussauds, London, until 30th September 2016. Tickets can be purchased here.

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English Lit + German student. I write and act and stuff.

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