Navigate back Back
Breadcrumb path arrow icon
Review: Undercover

Review: Undercover

Review: Undercover cover photo on Stagedoor
Theatre is all about play, but it’s interesting that the companies who are most playful in terms of how they make theatre are also the least likely to put on actual plays.

Companies such as Complicte, Coney, Improbable, Little Bulb and Told by an Idiot make a game of making theatre.

One of the most interesting pieces I saw last year was work.txt at the Vault Festival, a piece conceived by Nathan Ellis which has no actors, only a performing audience following written and audio instructions who had to work-- or rather play together-- to build a city out of giant Jenga bricks.

That was a physical audience in a physical space, but in recent months as theatre has looked to digital content there has been increased interest in creating experiences online in which theatre and escape rooms meet head-on and a potentially new form is created. Upcoming shows include Les Enfants Terribles’ Sherlock Holmes: the case of the Hung Parliament, and Bristol based Sharp Teeth’s Sherlock Holmes: Murder on Ice, available via the Wardrobe theatre. Somebody somewhere is almost certainly already proposing a PHD on the influence of the private detective on theatre’s pandemic output.

Sherlock In Homes by Sharp Teeth.

Morpheus operates in this newish but already bustling market, had success with the horror sci-fi adventure Locked Down, and is currently is offering three new shows -- including two, Spymaker and Winter Rescue, which are aimed at teenage or younger audiences and both sound fun.

For adults there is Undercover, a light-hearted comedy caper in which you and a group of online participants become the heroes—or fall guys who lose more than just your trousers—as you attempt to infiltrate the lab of a nuclear scientist’s lab and retrieve a vital component for the British secret services. It is more Fawlty Towers than James Bond.

It’s a good wheeze, and would probably be more fun enjoyed with a group of close friends, but I do wish people would stop using the term immersive so loosely. Putting on a blindfold and listening via headphones doesn’t immediately make something immersive.

What the show does do rather well is to remind us that theatre is created as much in the minds of the audience as it through our gaze. Shakespeare knew this. At the start of Henry V, the chorus asks the audience to “piece out our imperfections with your thoughts” imploring us to “think when we talk of horses, that you see them”. Wearing a blindfold makes us conjure each scene in our imaginations as the scenario unfolds, narrated by Morpheus himself.

There’s mileage in exploring this further, but I suspect that as more and more theatre makers look to combine escape room with theatre, those who are going to thrive are those who are most playful in the way they deliver these shows—both theatrically and in their use of technology—and who have the skills to combine rigorous dramaturgy with sharp writing and great storytelling.

You can find all Morpheus shows including Undercover here.

Share this article on:

Facebook Icon Twitter Icon
Written by

Lyn Gardner

New tips and reviews every week. If you're looking for innovative theatre, you've come to the right place.
Logo for influencer Lyn Gardner on Stagedoor