Bethnal Green Town Hall Hotel
In recent years, there's been a growth in the number of immersive theatre experiences. Punchdrunk theatre compmany has been at the forefront with shows like The Borough in 2013 and Against Captain's Orders: A Journey into the Uncharted in 2015.
The Grift's creator and director Tom Salamon has also been pretty prolific, having previously created Goosebumps Alive and Accomplice, which ran at the Menier Chocolate Factory in 2011 to great success.
Salamon's latest hybrid of theatre—come—Crystal Maze challenge is set within the grand and lavish corridors of the Bethnal Green Town Hall Hotel. The venue and its staff from a bygone era are instrumental to the story—although like many of these immersive shows the story has little to no relevance.
Salamon has made full use of the building's space, its grandeur and miles of corridors. It's not just your brain that will be tested as you grapple with various tricks and artistry used by seasoned con-men. Your fitness will also be tested as you move from floor to floor to learn the various tricks. Get prepared to climb a lot of unnecessary stairs.
The fictional story of The Grift gives the audience the chance to learn a few tricks of the conman used by Eddie 'The Hammer' Hammersmith played convincing by Ged Forrest. It's all fairly basic and without the opportunity to have a wander around the hotel it would have all become fairly tedious very quickly.
All immersive theatre has a big problem getting an audience to care and The Grift seriously suffers from this. There's never a genuine sense of jeopardy throughout the evening, nor is there a feeling that the randomly selected groups which make up the audience could fail. Without these, the group I was in quickly fragmented into the classic know-it-alls and the don't-care-at-alls.
The Grift makes the audience work too hard with little reward. The setting is certainly the star of the show as well as Lizzie Gethings props and set design. She managed to blend the 'set' with the hotels authentic art, furniture and decorations—so much show they seamlessly blended into one. This significantly helped with the flimsy storyline about a boy who was brought up and raised by the staff of the hotel.
The story is silly and the plot is weak, but the experience is fun.
Reviewer: Thomas Magill