Operation Black Door at Churchill War Rooms
Having a historically themed, immersive theatre experience set in the Churchill War Rooms ought to be an easy success. Unfortunately it does require decent writing in order to turn the premise into a story; as it is, Operation Black Door fails to live up to even the most basic rules of storytelling, resulting in an experience that is short and unrewarding. While some of the actors are having a blast and doing their best to entertain the guests, this does little to solve the experience’s main issues.
The framing narrative is that the audience members are history buffs trying to uncover echoes of the past by utilising an AI called CIGGIE via an app. This involves following several clues, going to the right rooms, and occasionally engaging with some of the actors.
While it may sound like a fun escape room concept, the riddles are ludicrously easy. There are four “missions” to accomplish, but each of them takes just a few minutes to complete and can be as simple as scanning two pieces of paper or listening to someone speak for a while. The writers seem to have some disregard for the audience’s intelligence: historical information is repeated over and over again and anything that isn’t spelled-out directly by the provided evidence is then explained via the app. There’s no thinking involved and it constantly makes one feel there’s something missing – a sensation heightened by the entirely unemotional storytelling.
The app itself is also rather clunky, riddled with typos and punctuation errors, and the experience relies on it much too heavily. While any engagement with the actors is good fun and feels like an actually absorbing experience, most of one’s time is spent staring at a screen and listening to the app’s voice via headphones.
No, there is little to like about Operation Black Door. As a piece of this genre, it’s not immersive enough. There is no real plot, and it’s way too short for the outrageous price of £35, which is a huge pity – it would have been so easy to write a proper plot surrounding the historical events and have more of a narrative going on. As it is, there’s just too little effort involved for this to be enjoyable.
Operation Black Door is at Churchill War Rooms from 22nd September until 24th September 2022. For further information or to book visit the museum’s website here.