I am tempted to write nothing about the Menier Chocolate Factory’s latest venture. I went along knowing next to nothing and came away thoroughly delighted that I didn’t, and that, I believe, is how every person who books for Accomplice should approach it: ignorance is bliss.
Perhaps then, it is better to say what it is not: Accomplice is not a traditional piece of theatre, it does not take place on a stage and it has no audience. Nor is there a fixed running time, and neither is one performance ever the same as any other.
Devised by writer and director Tom Salamon and originally staged in New York, Accomplice is a mysterious adventure through the streets of London in which you are the adventurer and Southwark is your playground. Together with your fellow intrepid explorers – our group numbered just eight, giving the experience a very personal feel – you are propelled round this life-sized boardgame by human clues who direct you on to the next stage of the mystery. Think Crystal Maze, but without the ticking clock or the shouting (and no sign of Richard O’Brien, though he would have fit in quite well).
Surreal, inventive, thrilling and hugely entertaining, it has the potential to leave you crying with laughter or clinging to each other in fright, depending on the circumstances you find yourself in. But this is not a pushy, flashy show that forces you to do things you don’t want to do; rather, it has a subtle, subversive feel which sparks the curiosity and entices you into this special mission that the tourists and weekend strollers around you know nothing about. Even those allergic to audience participation can’t fail to be drawn in.
Immersive theatre, the banner applied to Punchdrunk’s interactive shows Faust and The Masque Of The Red Death, and the Barbican’s surreal rollercoaster You Me Bum Bum Train, has gained a devoted following of late. Like those shows, Accomplice is devised for people who want to be delighted by a new experience, and it deserves to become as popular as those shows did. But at the same time, I would rather it didn’t. I want it to stay the mysterious entity that it was when I first signed up to take part, when I first got the phone call that began the journey… But I will say no more. That’s something else for you to discover yourself.