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‘Intricately thought out & masterfully constructed’: VIPER SQUAD – CtrlAltRepeat (Online review) ★★★★★

CtrlAltRepeat is back! Following on from the hugely successful Sherlock Holmes mystery (Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Symmetric Mailshot), the team has devised a brand new piece of interactive Zoom theatre (based on an original story from James Dillon) which takes participants back to 1988 – the hair is big, cocktail umbrellas are compulsory, and the Viper Squad has another case to crack.

A major bank robbery is in progress on Wall Street and, rather than relying on the NYPD, Viper Squad has been called in to wrap things up in a timely manner; from Intelligence and Tactical to Negotiations, they’ve got it covered – and they even have a couple of zip wires handy to make a classic 80s action movie entrance. You as the audience are new recruits to the squad, learning on the job and generally staying quick-witted in the face of incoming intel and fast-moving developments. There’s no chance to sit back and relax with this one – you’re in it until the operation is complete.

And you definitely need to be willing to step up. There is a lot of negotiating to be done, for starters, so if you end up in that team then be prepared to be called upon!. You obviously don’t go in cold, as you are given several documents with background information and learn more in your breakout sessions – plus when the whole team is together Control is on hand to prompt you onscreen or in the chat.

Even if you are like me and a bit quieter, you quickly get drawn in and soon you’re making snap decisions as to what course of action other members of Viper Squad should take, even if it endangers their lives! The beauty of shows like this is that there is usually a good mix of quieter and more outspoken participants, so things will keep running quite smoothly as people chip in when they feel confident. It never feels like you’re being forced into anything as you really do just get swept up with the excitement &and tension of the situation.

My top tips would be:

  • Use a desktop/laptop computer to take part – it’s helpful to be able to view the files that are provided through the chat, and using a phone or tablet could get cumbersome.
  • Have a notebook within easy reach (or open notepad on your computer) – you never know what information could come in handy along the way.
  • Keep your brain switched on, as the leader of the criminal gang does like to test you…

With there being the choice of three teams to join within Viper Squad, and various decisions made whenever you break out from the main group (as well as certain points while you’re all together), it basically functions like a video game, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch or a Choose Your Own Adventure book; the choices you make will affect the outcome of the operation.

It has been intricately thought out and masterfully constructed – the addition of video clips makes it feel more real, and the 80s style graphics keep you fixed in that period. If you want to try and experience a different outcome, however, you can – the cast rotates between performances, meaning repeat attenders won’t have any advantage over newbies and truly can experience things for the first time a second time. (The company comprises Rachel Waring, James Dillon, Sid Phoenix, Anna Sambrooks, Edward Cartwright and David Alwyn.)

I always want to try immersive theatre, but as an introvert I am often put off as the first hurdle of being plunged into a group of strangers is just not compatible with my character – there’s something different about an online iteration of this, however. You get the best of both worlds: the safety & comfort of your own home, and some much needed connection with other humans. Something that’s vitally needed right now, but would also retain its worth in a world where theatres are more freely opened – Zoom theatre is here to stay!

My verdict? A highly entertaining & thoroughly engaging piece of interactive Zoom theatre, providing human connection & a welcome sense of escapism – get your pens & tiny little umbrellas ready, as you’re going to need them!

Rating: 5*

Viper Squad runs on Zoom until 22 November 2020. Tickets are available online – best experienced on a desktop/laptop computer.

Tags: Anna Sambrooks, Bandersnatch, Black Mirror, Choose Your Own Adventure, CtrlAltRepeat, David Alwyn, Edward Cartwright, James Dillon, Rachel Waring, review, Sid Phoenix, theatre, Viper SquadCategories: all posts, quarantine, review, theatre

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