‘The Escape Room’ is a fun bit of improv, focusing on four colleagues and an escape room operator (Edward Chalmers, Shane Henry, David Todman, Jenni Townsend, and Alexis Watt) as they – extremely unsuccessfully – attempt to finish an escape room in less than the 23-minute record set by a crew from Facebook.
(For those unfamiliar, an escape room is a real-life puzzle game where small teams must work together to break out of a locked room. The puzzles often require multiple personality types in order to find solutions, which can either go very well or… very poorly. Escape rooms are currently very popular team-building exercises, particularly in the corporate world, which leads nicely into this show.)
Each character from the fake IT company Nettle is a fun parody of a corporate stereotype, including the incompetent middle manager, the uptight HR woman, the half cocky / half apathetic aspiring-manager, and a nervous young lady who seems to have been stuck as the ‘coffee and filing’ girl throughout her entire career. The personalities of these characters are all laid on a little heavy, but as it’s only a fifty minute show I can understand why.
Unfortunately, the set is rather small, which means each performer struggled to find their own space a lot of the time and often they ended up obscuring each other as they moved between the puzzles. Missing Persons – a creative space in the Nicholas Building, and the location for this performance – is pretty cramped, especially with a full house in the crowd. When the props were visible (i.e. not blocked by one of the actors) I was very impressed with the quality work and creativity that went into producing them, and that was definitely one of the highlights of the performance.
Some of the quips were also extremely well-timed and hilariously relatable, as someone who has a day job in corporate IT I was very impressed with just how real some of their interactions were. However, I also found a lot of the dialogue to be repetitive and just not that funny, with some attempts at jokes falling flat. There were a few intriguing storylines that I felt could have been fleshed out – the sub-plot about Ethan (cocky/apathetic) wanting Jason’s (incompetent middle manager) job, for example – and hopefully in future performances these bits of gold were enhanced.
Overall, The Escape Room was good enough for an evening out, but definitely requires a little tightening. Hopefully throughout the rest of their run the cast will find their footing, as I think they might end up with a stellar show on their hands.