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In London’s (Off) West End 2019: Spy City by Colab Theatre (Review)

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Espionage and apocalyptic plots keep us constantly on our toes in this immersive experience.

LONDON –  If you ever fancied yourself a dashing MI6 agent, then Colab Theatre’s Spy City is the immersive theatre experience likely to let you live out those dreams. Imagining themselves as undercover agents, players spend the exhilarating Spy City chasing down and running away from enemy agents right in the heart of London as they work together to uncover and foil an apocalyptic world-ending plot.

If you thought this was going to be like a Bond film however, that’s where you’re sorely mistaken. You won’t be glamming it up in a suit, rather, right before the experience begins, you receive your brief in a gritty, secret spy members bar near London Bridge (complete with secret passcode). It’s not long before we’re thrust right into the action, moving from place to place as we meet characters from scientists to soldiers to enemy agents, constantly keeping us on our toes as we learn to trust no one while searching for clues and instructions hidden in each area.

What is most impressive about Spy City is Colab Theatre’s sense of organisation and complete control over their play space – despite taking place over a relatively large area, the individual locations each ‘scene’ takes place in are well-designed and precisely planned out. Spy City’s pacing is very well-done – from sleuthing for information from enemy agents to breaking into a safe house, there’s never a dull moment. Even while traversing from place to place, players do more than just ‘walk’, instead having to ensure we remain inconspicuous while we track down our marks or avoid detection.

While there is a distinct path that we are led on (with an ever-present character to guide us), there remains an incredible adrenaline rush every step of the way. Actors never break character, even while giving us hints as to what we might do next, and each one commits fully to delivering what feels like the ‘real deal’ as we interact with them. It’s an experience we want to invest in emotionally, more and more as we become entwined more tightly in the mysterious plot. One thinks of Spy City as a trail of exhilarating breadcrumbs, with each moment giving us enough to do while keeping us hungry for what comes next, keeping us constantly on our toes.

By the time we reach its fast-paced rush of a finale, Spy City has players completely enamoured with the plot, going from a simple underground operation to a far more epic scale. We feel a sense of danger (there is a safe word for if things ever get too uncomfortable), and we genuinely imagine ourselves as men (and women) on a mission to save the world. And when we do, returning back to the members bar we started at, there’s an undeniable sense of accomplishment from what we’ve achieved, and just for a moment, lets each and every player feel like an absolute hero for once in their life.

Performance attended 25/8/19 (5pm)

Spy City ran till 7th September 2019. For more information visit their website here

 

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