After a successful crowdfunding campaign, Deathcell recently commenced its four-day run and, naturally, we were there to check it out! Set in a dystopian near-future where people can be nominated by anyone for detention, Deathcell sees guests assume the role of prisoners in a facility where freedom is teased but essentially unobtainable.
Upon arrival, we were made to wear boiler suits and, mere seconds later, we were thrown into the thick of this dismal world! Deathcell hit the ground running with the first scene having us bear witness to the execution of a fellow prisoner. Setting the stakes high, the situation escalated rapidly as we then became the focus of the ‘Flies’, best described as Deathcell’s guards. The following 20/25 minutes took us on a whistle-stop tour of the machinations of this hellish jail, injecting a very clear narrative along the way.
Deathcell did a lot of things right. The set was incredibly immersive – we’d assumed, being a temporary attraction with a short run, that the event would make use of existing features in the venue. However, everything seemed custom built for the show which was an impressive feat. The fact that it all felt solid and lived in also helped sell the events that were unfolding before us. This followed through into the very cinematic aesthetic of the show. Seriously, at times we believed that we were characters in a movie – it’s a unique quality that we haven’t experienced all that often. This was supported by a great soundtrack and a universe that was overflowing with detail. But without a solid cast, all this work would be for nothing so we’re happy to report that the performances completely sold the story and imbued the experience with a sense of realism. The ‘Flies’ were great – speaking no words but producing an eerie clicking, these characters were imposing to say the least and somehow possessed a lot of character despite being masked and mute!
We’d love to see this world expanded and therein lies our main criticism of Deathcell.
For a circa half-hour show, the pace was breakneck which sometimes made things disorienting – we had little time to process what we’d witnessed before leaping into the next scene. This is absolutely a show that needs some breathing space, that or the current version should be pared back.
An easy candidate for us here would be the escape room elements. For a few reasons, this section didn’t gel with everything either side of it. The mission that we were tasked with seemed at odds with the rest of the story; we’re not sure why we suddenly had to seek out pieces of paper and divine info from them or why these sheets even existed in the first place. This stretch of the show shattered some of the immersion for us and we feel that the time could have been better spent focusing on our overall predicament. We love that they attempted to make the overall experience less passive and think the idea shouldn’t necessarily be ditched but something more in line with the show would work better.
The other section that seemed slightly out of place was the ending. It came and went very quickly and the closing gauntlet betrayed the strong story that the rest of the show had established, devolving into a generic scare maze. Given the previous 25 minutes, we were expecting something a bit more theatric – it took us a couple of seconds to realise that we’d reached the end of Deathcell.
And finally, the opening few scenes featured an unseen announcer – with the chaos of the show, we missed a fair bit of what this person was saying over the tannoy system due to sound bleed. We caught snippets here and there but can’t shake the feeling that we may have missed important pieces of info in those early moments.
Overall, Deathcell has an incredible amount of promise and we think it could totally kill if everything was a bit more developed and less frantic. There’s a lot of story to be mined here and it has great potential to put guests in some interesting situations – we’d love to see the show return as an expanded piece. As it is, we couldn’t shake the feeling that this was an abridged version, almost like a film trailer in its staccato pacing. But, if this is the tease for what comes next, we’ll definitely be back to see where this crazy ride goes!
EVENT NAME - COMPANY
+ Original & intriguing story
+ Great setting & characters
- Escape game elements were a distraction
- Too brief for the amount of story being delivered
- Some moments were hard to hear
Deathcell provided a fun experience but moved relentlessly fast at points leaving us wishing that it was the twice the length to give the concept space to breathe.
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