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Echoes: An Immersive Horror Experience by COLAB Theatre

Reverend Parks welcomes us to the abandoned Sanderson chocolate factory for Echoes: An Immersive Horror Experience by COLAB Theatre. She’s grateful we’re here, because we have a job to do. Unnatural events demand an exorcism.

Rev Parks
Rev. Parks.

Inside, we’re assigned to tables, and soon we’re piecing together information from newspapers, police reports, local history, to understand the events which might have led to the place being haunted. We’re searching for clues, though we’re not sure exactly what we’re looking for. Our table becomes obsessed with finding ‘page 5’ – the continuation of the front-page report of a ghastly accident that left a factory worker dead. This led to a protracted examination of free newspaper pages which I’m pretty certain were papering the windows purely to block out sightlines.

Perhaps the confusion, and the uncertainty about the goal, should evoke the experience of true investigations, by the police or supernatural thrill-seekers. When we hit a dead-end, Rev Parks or her assistant, Mr Hooks, redirect us, drawing out threads we hadn’t put together. While this keeps us moving forwards, it isn’t clear to me that these were links anyone could have spotted. For example (very minor spoiler, but look away now if you don’t want it), if the names of the victims are so important for an exorcism, it would have been better to be narratively taught this – maybe in a ‘guide to exorcism’ or a piece of audio testimony. Instead, our attention is drawn by Rev Parks to the lack of named victims. So much more satisfying it would be (and in keeping with a real investigation) if we could work out that this was a line of research to pursue, rather than just being told.

There is a jerky feeling to our progression with the search. Two steps forward. Hit brick wall. Get helped out.

The experience really comes into its own, however, once we are sent into the streets of Southwark to collect the ‘echoes’ of the title – enabled by an impressively seamless mobile web app. This embeds augmented reality audio clips into the roadways around the building. Audience members vary in how quickly they catch onto how this works, but I feel it is impressively intuitive to use.

We are also sent down into the (terrifying) dark confines of the haunted basement. In smaller groups, we search for clues and hope not to encounter evil spirits. If some of this sounds familiar, that could be that it is familiar to me. This is a very similar show to last Hallowe’en’s Flicker. While I can see the value in sticking to a format that works, freshness is surely a big motivator for immersive experiences, and I feel like I am retreading old ground.

Thankfully, as we emerge from the pandemic the audience sizes can be a little larger. I’m not sure enough thought has been given, however, to retaining the intimacy of the more restricted shows. There, we were able to get to know our fellow sleuths, and to some extent draw up theories between all of us. Here, that feels too unwieldy to achieve.

As we hurtle towards the climax, the focus crumbles, and I feel we lose track of what is going on or how we’re supposed to be solving the case. And there is the usual tension with a really interactive immersive theatre event: namely, if we did solve the case, would that ruin the final theatrical denouement?

A satisfying resolution draws together much of what we’ve learned, but I’m lost in echoes of COLAB’s earlier show.

3 Star Review

Review by Ben Ross

The award-nominated COLAB Theatre returns for a third year running with a brand new Immersive Horror Experience. You are invited to face your fears once more. Step into the unknown.

The history of chocolate is bathed in blood.

A chocolate factory shrouded in secrets, a family compelled by greed, and a vengeful spirit lurking below. Put your mind to the test as you race to unravel four mysteries spanning generations. Challenge your bravery as you plunge into the depths of an abandoned basement, scrabbling in search of the vital clues in order to save a life. But steady your nerve, for should you make a sound,

Hell’s wrath shall befall you.

Forty years to unwind. Four victims to free. One raging spirit… Your life is in your hands.

COLAB House, 55 Southwark Street, London, SE1 1RU
October 20th – November 14th 2021
https://www.colabtheatre.co.uk/

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