You know you’ve been in lockdown for far too long when you reattend a show you’ve already seen and they have had time to restructure the original into a new improved version. That’s what’s happened though with CtrlAltRepeat’s online interactive problem solver now rebranded as Viper Squad Remastered. I saw the original back in October last year, thoroughly enjoyed it and was interested to see what developments had been made.
The basic scenario remains that, as audience, we are drafted in as temporary members of the crime busting outfit, Viper Squad which is firmly stuck in the 1980s. There’s still an incident at the bank involving theft and the taking of hostages to deal with. The characters controlling the action are pretty much the same but that’s all in the nature of an action film sequel (where would Bond be without M, Q and Moneypenny putting in regular appearances?).
Just as I was starting to wonder what was new about the show, we suddenly diverted down a completely alternative path with a different criminal mastermind to unmask and a new crime to solve. The audience/participants, of course, are completely new – to me anyway, someone there was on their sixth go. This mixture of the familiar and the unfamiliar gives the show a distinct edge over some of the other puzzle solving theatre experiences that are out there. It’s rather like going back to a familiar board game you haven’t played in a while and finding that there are some new rules you didn’t know about.
CtrlAltRepeat seems to have gone in for a radical redesign of some of the supportive elements too. The Amstrad Word Processor style graphics at the start certainly conjure up the era. The sound seems much clearer and more stable than I recall but that just might be down to my system which has had an upgrade. There are now coloured dots which appear on maps to show you where various characters are inside the bank and the supportive documents are easier to navigate than I recall.
This is important as many of the big clues are locked away in these – I wonder if newer audience members need to have these more clearly pointed out in the introductory section. I was glad to be participating on a laptop (they do point out that this is the best way) as you need to be able to jump from screen to screen fairly rapidly in order to keep on top of what is happening. Transitions into and out of the discussion areas also seems smoother.
The actors have a challenging task to keep things moving and this time round seemed to be more practised at keeping all the balls up in the air and the plates spinning as, indeed, they should be. And if there’s no great depth to the characters which they are playing, this is all in keeping with the genre they are parodying anyway. A shout out also to the technical whizz/whizzes in the background who keep everything moving along so smoothly under David Alwyn and Sid Phoenix’s assured direction. Costumes are well sourced and this time round the audience was encouraged to costume up in 80s gear which gave an extra fun dimension to proceedings. I’d like to point out to the younger audience attendees that some of us are able to source genuine originals!
I had just as much fun as before and, being slightly more familiar with how things worked, felt more at ease with what was happening. I found myself found myself working in intelligence again (!!) styling myself as Blue Parakeet (note to self – remember to rebadge yourself on Zoom BEFORE your next meeting). This involved trying to sort out the identity of criminal mastermind Alpha (completely different from last time round, so no advantage to be had there) and deciphering various codes and puzzles. One of these was the same as previously, so I held off rather than spoil the fun for everyone else – unfortunately, this meant that the riddle didn’t get answered in time and one of the hostages got disposed of. Oh no, I have blood on my hands!