The Grift at Bethnal Green Town Hall Hotel
The Grift experience begins upon entering the trendy Town Hall Hotel and taking in its Edwardian charm. The revamped civil building is perfectly suited for an immersive show with a mystery game feel. After a short prelude, the audience is presented with a mission, and it is immediately clear that The Grift will keep participants on their toes.
We are introduced to the background story that involves the lovechild of two (oddly matched) iconic celebrities. The boy is adopted by the hotel and its staff from childhood to old age, and before he passes away, he leaves an important message. An unfulfilled revenge plot is revealed to those present, who are then entrusted to bring it to completion. Walking up and down the building in small teams looking for clues, thearegoers encounter different characters around the hotel, each with a story to tell and a puzzle to present. The answers to the riddles carry the quest forward, and time limits add further pressure to the mission.
The Grift was first conceived after writer/director Tom Salamon became a victim of fraud and grew interested in the dynamics of deception and trust. Described as “part theatre, part game”, the show is definitely more of a live action board game than a dramatic performance. The interactive aspect of the piece is the focal point that drives the action while the storyline is merely an excuse to set off the game. Intentionally bizarre and amusingly far-fetched, the plot does not seem to be intended to serve any other purpose than giving a direction and structure.
From a purely theatrical perspective The Grift cannot be said to be satisfying, but what renders the show exquisitely enjoyable is that the audience is actively involved in the action and constantly on the alert for clues, instructions and unexpected events. The full immersion enhances the experience to a great degree and the cast, who employ their improvisation skills with flair, ooze enthusiasm.
Giving people the opportunity to have an active role means that there is a real sense of sharing the experience with others. It also places some responsibility onto the audience, who inevitably contribute to the overall feel of the night. As with all shows of this kind, the level of enjoyment partly depends on the participants themselves and their input, so if one leaps right into the adventure, a fun ride is guaranteed.
Photo: Scott Rylander
The Grift is at Bethnal Green Town Hall Hotel from 23rd January until 25th March 2018. For further information or to book visit the show’s website here.