Accomplice: New York interactive theatre comes to SE1 streets
Accomplice - a combination of theatre, game and walking tour which has been a hit on the streets of New York and Los Angeles - is coming to Southwark in September.
The Menier Chocolate Factory is bringing Accomplice, a well-established hit on the streets of New York and Lost Angeles, to the streets of London.
"Accomplice is a combination of theatre and game that takes place on foot throughout different neighbourhoods, where small groups of 10 get dropped into a sort of adventure that takes place on the streets," says co-creator Tom Salamon.
"There are actors that are situated throughout all these different locations, but you as the audience never know who the actors are and who regular strange people out on the street are. That's the basic concept behind Accomplice.
"We started in New York about five years ago with my sister and I coming up with this idea of theatre that would take place throughout the streets that the audience had to problem-solve and clue-solve in order to get from place to place.
"We started producing it in New York in 2005 and it sort of caught on really quickly. And then in 2009 we expanded to Los Angeles, and here were are in London, 2010."
Out of all the possible London villages where the show could have been staged, why has this come to Southwark?
"Getting involved with the Menier Chocolate Factory is really what brought us to this neighbourhood," says Tom.
"As a New Yorker who's spent a little bit of time in London, I think from the American perspective you would go somewhere like Soho or Piccadilly Circus or the West End.
"But the Chocolate Factory came to the shows in New York and said, 'This is going to be great in London. It's going to be great in Southwark'. And now, having been here, I see that it's a perfect location because it's got a combination of very old London and very new London.
"We like to use iconic locations as well as hidden, out of the way spots that you wouldn't necessarily know about if you lived here. This has a great combination of the old and the new, which is what we look for."
Tom says that Accomplice audiences soon become hyper-aware of their surroundings, which can lead to some unexpected encounters.
"A lot of times, the strangest person on the street will answer 'Yes' to any question, so a scene will sometimes play out between, say, a person on the street that's dressed strangely or whatever, and the audience will walk up to them and they'll engage in a conversation," he says.
"The audience thinks this is an actor, and the guy that's strange on the street is just looking to have a conversation. He says "Yes" to questions that don't have to do with anything.
"There have been times when the audience walks up to a guy and they say, 'Are we supposed to see you?' And he goes, 'Yes, you're supposed to see me.' And they go, 'We need a key'. And he goes, 'I have 17 keys'. They start going through all the different keys, and 10 minutes later they figure that the guy's got nothing to do with any of that."
The £29.50 ticket price includes some food and drink during the adventure. "It's just an added bonus included in the ticket price," says Tom. " And you know, when designing these shows, we just look at a lot of things that would be make for an engrossing, entertaining couple of hours. And so we figured including a beer and including a drink, another drink, and a little bit of food would be good along the way."
Accomplice is booking for weekends from 4 September. "We start from noon to 4pm on Saturdays and Sundays," he says. "A different group of 10 will start every half an hour.
"You can buy 10 tickets and come with all your friends or you can buy two tickets and you'll be paired with other people in that time slot.
"You'll get a phone call the day before that tells you where to meet. You show up at that spot and you get dropped into the story. The show's about two and a half hours from start to finish. It's probably about a mile of walking, 10 minutes at a time, and then a scene will take place, and then another 10 minutes trying to find the next location. You get to the next location, another scene takes place. That's essentially it."
The show is currently booking till the end of January 2011 but Tom hopes it will run and run – even through the worst London winter weather.
"We expect that Londoners will be expecting some drizzle and some rain. A lot of it is indoors. Some of it is outdoors. We'll always have places to bring it indoors in case it's very bad weather.
"But we think the London audience are troopers and expect if they're going to be outside it's not going to be gorgeous bright sunny skies all the time."