As regular readers will recall, we went on a trip to the Southend seaside in October Half Term to review the child-friendly version of Stab in the Dark, a new, immersive crime-solving experience. As Mummy said at the end of that review, we were really quite tempted to go back and try the adult experience. So this weekend we left the munchkins with Auntie Poppins and headed back to Southend to give the grown-up version a go.
Stab in the Dark is the debut production of Show Up Productions, run by Benfleet based theatre maker Rachel Dingle. Part escape room, part immersive theatre performance, it’s set in 1995 and centres around a murder at a prestigious fashion store, Barker’s Boutique. Detectives must comb the crime scene for clues and take their findings to the police station where they can submit evidence for forensic analysis and interview witnesses. The experience is suitable for ages 14+ and lasts two hours.
It’s a really great concept, which incorporates some of the elements of an escape room within a more interactive, murder-mystery event. There is a time limit but you’re not under quite the same pressure as in an escape room and have more thinking time to piece together the clues and plan your next step. The first hour is spent in the crime scene, where you have to search for clues and work out what you want to take back to the police station. Although this is interrupted a couple of times by the appearance of some key players in the story. This gives you the first chance to get some questions in which may help you later on. Mrs Mummy also managed to ask an ingenious question that helped us find one of the key pieces of evidence at the crime scene. This was useful, since there’s no returning to that room once your hour is up.
It’s then time to bag up evidence and take it back to the lab for forensic investigation. You have a list of potential tests that you can conduct, and a budget for those investigations. While the police boffins run the tests, you can start quizzing your suspects in the interrogation room. Planning is key here as you only have an hour, tests take time, and some of the test results can be useful when it comes to questioning witnesses. Getting into character is encouraged and, after some initial reticence, some of our team really embraced their inner detectives. Others were happier observing and making the occasional ‘witty’ comment.
When the second hour is up, you have to name the murderer. There are lots of different clues that hint at the right answer, although some will help more than others, so it’s not a problem if you don’t manage to collect all the evidence or speak to every witness. But questioning them all is part of the fun. Especially on Saturday when two of the actors had called in sick so heroic Rachel had to play every part. This actually added an entertaining dimension to the game as she darted in and out in different costumes, occasionally breaking character to pass us a file of evidence. Not only had she mastered every character, but she had to perform the roles while putting up with our giggly questioning and ridiculous side comments!
We thoroughly enjoyed Stab in the Dark. We loved the way that it combined our favourite escape room feature (ransacking the room) with a more theatrical, problem-solving experience. And to top it all off, we caught the murderer at the end of it all. We’d recommend it for anyone who is a fan of escape rooms or murder mysteries, or just looking for something a bit different to do on a winter afternoon.
Stab in the Dark is in previews from 6 to 14 December 2019 before a run from 6 to 31 January 2020.