The Adventure

Oliver Birch
Bad Physics
Watford Palace Theatre

The Adventure
The Adventure

This interactive show for children aged 7-13 takes them on an adventure to help brother and sister Jack and Jill and their friend Fred find their scientist father who has disappeared—they feel sure that he has been kidnapped and have set out to rescue him.

It takes place in the theatre, but it's a promenade not a stage play, so it begins in the foyer with a storytelling clown who calls himself Mr Wren. In a broad Brummie accent, he starts on the story of Noah and his ark. He needs the help of one of his young listeners and a yellow duck watering. Together they start the famed forty days of rain. He’s embarked on making balloon sculpture animals with which to populate the ark when the children turn up anxiously asking for help in finding their dad.

They’ve tried the police they say, but someone seems to have tipped the police off that they might call and said to ignore them. That makes them even more sure that something terrible has happened.

Mr Wren is very annoyed at being interrupted and wants to go on with his story, but it is put to the vote whether to stop and go on a search for the missing scientist that might be dangerous but could make them heroes. The intrepid group of very young ladies I was with didn’t think twice.

A torn piece of paper seems to carry a clue to the kidnappers and it doesn’t take long before someone has spotted a linking logo and the quest is on. Are we going the right way? In no time it is getting exciting and holding on to the hand of the person in front of us we set off into the dark, exploring private places that feel really creepy.

Finding some torches throws light on things but they must all be switched off when there is a chance of being discovered by the kidnappers.

As one place leads to another, the evidence mounts. There are clues to be solved to provide door-opening numbers, codes to discover and the messages that they unravel, human live wires pass electricity to work things, dangerous asbestos (though safe if you don’t saw into it) and worse: poison gas.

It’s fun and just a little bit frightening and there is plenty of opportunity for everyone to make his or her contribution in solving a problem. It would spoil it to give away details—The Adventure will be touring the UK next year.

The youngsters I saw it with were not short of ideas and the cast were adept at knowing how to stimulate action and encouragingly redirect ideas that weren’t appropriate. Harry McEntire’s Jack and Jessica Lee-Hopkins's Jill generate a juvenile enthusiasm that bonds this impromptu gang together with Brenan Murphy’s Fred the one full of warnings and Richard Atwill’s Mr Wren, so upset when people call him a clown, turning out to be something very different. These don’t feel like actors playing characters and you do feel that you are gong on an adventure.

It lasts an hour, which is probably just the right length for the age group (though some over 11s might be a bit too grown up). It is not for tots and, because it takes place in parts of the theatre or elsewhere not generally used by the public and often in darkness or poor light, you should check with the venue (not always a theatre) for future tour dates if a child has any problems with mobility.

Reviewer: Howard Loxton