REVIEW (From a Distance): Select A Quest (Pins and Needles Productions)

With a return to live theatre looking unlikely for some time yet, creatives are starting to turn to technology to find innovative ways of bringing the joy of theatre into the home. Here at The Family Stage, we’re always looking out for new digital theatre for children and young people. We’re also rather partial to an interactive experience, so we were excited when Pins and Needles Productions announced that they were producing an interactive online adventure.

Best known for their bold and imaginative adaptations of children’s books (including the Raymond Briggs’ classics Father Christmas and The Bear, and the recent Oliver-nominated Oi Frog & Friends), Pins and Needles have turned their hand to the classic “Choose Your Own Adventure” format with their new experience, SELECT A QUEST. And to make things more exciting, the team set themselves their own challenge of writing and creating the whole thing in just 72 hours!

The result is a delightfully daft experience which is perfect for entertaining youngsters and adults alike during an afternoon in lockdown. Constructed out of 27 separate video clips, every scene ends with two options for what to do next. And with only one correct path, there are plenty of opportunities to take a wrong turn and end up back at the beginning. (This happened to us many, many times. In fact, we managed to pick every single wrong path before eventually getting to the end!)

Jessica Temple as Captain Jenny in SELECT A QUEST (Pins and Needles Productions)

The adventure begins at Quest Camp, deep in the heart of the Freaky Forest, where it’s currently 1971 (or 2). Here we meet Captain Jenny (Jessica Temple) whose magic whistle will keep everyone safe from the curse that befalls the forest at nightfall. Except, oh dear, she doesn’t seem to have it anymore so it’s up to us to find it. And soon we’re faced with the first of many choices. Do we go East with Captain Jenny or go West alone with a map?…..It doesn’t take too many choices before our untimely death is being explained to us by melancholic cloud (Timothy O’Hara) who sports a costume constructed out of craft materials and what appears be shaving foam! This makeshift style is a fun feature of SELECT A QUEST, with all the actors foraging costumes, props and scenery from their own homes.

Timothy O’Hara in SELECT A QUEST (Pins and Needles Productions)

As we continue our quest to find the whistle, we meet an array of eccentric characters, including a bridge troll who wants our shoes, a fairy who wants us to join her girl band, an alien who wants to experiment on us and – perhaps most terrifying of all – Brenda from HR who wants a chat about conflict resolution! We also return to the cloud countless times to learn of our latest daft demise. It’s great fun and Bea Roberts’ witty script is peppered with pop culture references that will ensure the adults are giggling along with the kids.

If (like us!) you do take every wrong turn before eventually find the whistle, it can take a couple of hours to play. But going wrong is all part of the fun, and we would have been tempted to go back and watch all the videos anyway. There are some quirky characters that you wouldn’t want to miss, so we’d recommend watching them all, even if you do manage to select the correct path pretty quickly. You don’t have to do it all in one go and you can skip to the end of videos that you’ve already seen.

The munchkins both enjoyed having some control over the path they took, even if it did result in some sibling squabbles along the way! Mummy also had to concentrate quite hard on keeping track of the wrong routes, so that we could eventually emerge victorious. Slightly older children could probably manage this themselves but may want to have a notebook to hand to remind themselves of where they went wrong. And we wouldn’t recommend that the adults miss out on the fun anyway!

We were amazed with what Pins and Needles managed to come up with in 72 hours. It’s a brilliantly constructed experience which is great fun for the entire family. And it’s free to play. So get yourself down to the Freaky Forest to see if you can #FindTheWhistle faster than we did!

SELECT A QUEST is suitable for ages 6+.

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