MICF: The Escape Room

WW The Escape RoomAn “Escape Room” gives you the chance to work with friends against the clock to solve puzzles and secure your release. The business world has seized on the concept for “team building” – providing the setup for The Escape Room.

I’ve heard that such a team-building challenge may just show something already known, such as who can work together, and who’s in their own little world. The Escape Room shows that a group from an IT startup (replete with authentic-seeming logo and name) Nettle have some issues when it comes to teamwork.

A team from Facebook cracked the room in 23 minutes, so Team Manager Jason wants to do better. Given this strong motivation, it was quite difficult to believe the action that followed. Whilst viewing I recalled a criticism of ABC TV’s Utopia summarised by “These characters are presented with as much human complexity as the Cookie Monster, which explains why Utopia falls flat. There is no dramatic tension because nothing is really at stake.”

Specifically, the team frequently broke off into pairs to have lengthy, largely inconsequential conversations that didn’t aid their current task. No-one is this stupid, and starting at this point limits where the piece can credibly go.

There were other issues with the writing. Jason’s general ineptitude was repeatedly made obvious in a heavy-handed manner. This was unfortunate as there could be a good subplot of Ethan coming to realise why he lacked certain skills needed for management.

There were some attempted jabs at aspects of business culture, but often these didn’t go much beyond referencing some management idea. If you were expecting snappy geeky comedy like The IT Crowd or Dilbert, you might find the writing of The Escape Room more plodding and much less sharp than you would like.

My guest and I didn’t get much out of the performance. This was unfortunate as clearly a lot of work has gone into its preparation. The costuming – from the pencil-skirt and heels of HR Girl to Jason’s crumpled jacket with jeans – looked appropriate. The design team have done a terrific job with the stage and lighting, creating a space complex and detailed enough to look like a real escape room.

Some may feel that cutting an amount of fruitless repetition would give the characters more room to escape from their narrow characterisations. However, from references to such matters as Myers-Briggs personality tests, plenty of younger festival goers in the audience (or Utopia fans?) consistently had good laughs.

The Escape Room
Missing Persons – Nicholas Building, 37 Swanston Street, Melbourne
Performance: Thursday 29 March 2018 – 7.00pm
Season continues to 8 April 2018
Information and Bookings: www.comedyfestival.com.au

Image: courtesy of The Wibble Wobble

Review: Jason Whyte