Tucked away in a corner of the fourth floor of the Nicolas building in a venue aptly named Missing Persons, The Escape Room is a zany fusion of escape-rooms and improv comedy. It’s a show about a group of co-workers being forced into a familiar team-building exercise: being locked in a room and having to work together to solve puzzles and escape.
The space is cosy and secluded. An elaborate set taking up a corner of the room covered by a black sheet – delaying what everyone comes to see. What does a makeshift escape room look like? Answer: It looks exactly how you pictured it, only kind of better. Produced by the team behind Tropfest flick the Wibble Wobble, the Escape Room is performed by Edward Chalmers, Shane Henry, David Todman, Jenni Townsend and Alexis Watt.
The show itself was well executed. The characters, parodies of office stereotypes – Linda (this may not have actually been her name, but it might as well have been) from HR was a particular stand-out as she muddles her way through solving puzzles with people she would rather not be spending time with. Although the show is improv, the actors seemed like they were working off a script. Never a pause for more than a beat, the actors playing off each other with light-heartedness and over-the top characters that were bought to life though subtle moments of relatability. The actors know where they need to steer the story in order to push the narrative forward. Seemingly random events triggering key moments, lighting changes and laughs from the audience.
If has to be said that if you’re an escape room aficionado, or just like to be in charge, it’s not easy to sit and watch instead of jumping up to help. The puzzles are like they were plucked from an active escape room: familiar but original and ready to be solved. Although these puzzles are sometimes ignored for the inter-personal drama that is heightened by the stress and frustration that goes hand-in hand with Escape Rooms; it’s easily forgotten as you get caught up in the office politics and theatrics playing out before your eyes.
The Escape Room is a quirky and truly entertaining take on the cultural phenomenon that is Escape Rooms. It doesn’t matter if you’re a comedy fan, an improv fan or you just really like escape rooms, with a premise this good and actors that talented every night is sure to be a hoot.
The Escape Room is on at Missing Persons until Sunday 8 April as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Tickets, show details and accessibility information are available from the MICF website.