Town Hall, Bethnal Green, London – until 25 March 2018
Much like a street card conman setting out his stall, Tom Salomon’s The Grift describes itself as “a practice in the art of deception”.
The gig certainly makes for an unconventional episode of immersive theatre – but in trying to replicate what feels like a hybrid of The Crystal Maze crossed with Glengarry Glen Ross, The Grift falls somewhere between the two, leaving the audience conned in a way that they may not have been expecting.
Cons and tricks are explained but in the two-hour experience that sees teams of ticket holders scouring Bethnal Green’s Town Hall Hotel solving riddles that ultimately lead to a denouement in the hotel’s (magnificent) former council chamber, it all seems just a tad too contrived.
The cast put in fine shifts as they marshal the various groups through their different tasks, but they never really convince. To be fair though Ged Forrest as the evening’s “mark” Eddie Hammersmith does throw in a lovely dash of cockney menace.
Originally acclaimed in the States, it’s conceivable that American audiences may well have lapped this up for the evening, but is as much theme park as it is drama. In a more cynical London, disbelief is not quite suspended.
The evening’s a novel giggle though and the hotel’s sassy, immaculate Art Deco chic is worth the ticket alone. The building was opened in 1910 and as the various groups assail its labyrinthine corridors one can easily be reminded of Jack Torrance and his family, marooned in the Overlook Hotel. Now if only Danielle Tarento and The Town Hall Hotel’s owners were to produce an immersive take on Stephen King’s The Shining…