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’It’s best just to throw yourself into the role’: AGENT VENTURE (Online review)

Even if you attend a performance on your own, going to a theatre is a communal experience enjoyed in the company of the rest of the audience. Watching theatre online can be a quite solitary affair by comparison. It therefore made a pleasant change to be watching something with four other people although, of course, we were not in the same physical space (he added hurriedly in case the Covid police are on the alert). We had come together on Zoom to form a team to try one of the many online interactive shows which have sprung up in recent weeks. This one is Agent Venture created by The Adventure Is Real who have traded their usual live experiences for a similar approach online. Currently they are offering three scenarios The Heist (which we did), Cyborg Island and The B.A.D. Side Of The Moon. All of them involve taking on master criminal Bozo – who won the best evil laugh award for 2020 – and working as a team to foil his dastardly plots.

The experience actually began several hours before the event itself as participants are asked to answer a quiz to help determine their roles in the team. I emerged as the group researcher having to comb through documents and give advice on procedures; the other roles were co-ordinator, communicator, hacker and navigator. The mission itself came in two parts.

Firstly, we had to guide our agent through a building to recover some documents from a vault – then we had to rescue him from the building getting him out of a shark tank and several other dangerous situations . We achieved the former … with just one second to spare (real 007 stuff) but unfortunately did not live up to our earlier promise by coming good on part two.

All this is co-ordinated by just the one unseen operator who as well as taking on the role of the central agent also plays numerous other encountered characters and presumably operates the tech as well. Sorry, your anonymity means I can’t give you a credit but, whoever you are, good job! Quite apart from the numerous accents the actor has to deploy, the fast and furious nature of the piece means considerable improvisational skills are called for. Because of the strong vein of audience participation and reaction it must be totally different each time a new team comes along. Unlike other examples in a similar vein that I have tried, this piece totally relies on team interaction and co-operation; I can see why such an event might form the basis of a group bonding exercise.

I found myself a bit bewildered at first but fortunately there was plenty of help from my team mates and some helpful hints from Control both verbal and in the Zoom chat. We were also sent copious documents to unpick and which contained vital clues and the answers to the various puzzles we were set. These were well designed and required some skimming and scanning skills on my part to extract the relevant information to be passed on to our communicator and Agent Venture himself. It became evident that there were quite a few red herring documents, so the trick was to sus these out and discard them. I did that with one particular item which I then discovered I needed so had to recover it before I could find an answer – but that’s all part of the fun.

I’m not altogether sure that the storyline would pass muster on really close examination but, as there isn’t time for that, it’s best just to throw yourself into the role and make sure you’re supporting your team. However, with some deft manoeuvring towards the end, the narrative is driven towards introducing the next in the series and encouraging you to return. It rather reminded me of the old childhood serials shown at Saturday morning cinemas (now that does date me!) All I know is I laughed a lot at some of the outlandish situations we encountered and the struggle we had to get out of them. If you’re missing socialising but want something a bit more structured than a straightforward video call, then you will find this a real tonic.

from News, Reviews and Features – My Theatre Mates

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