On a sunny Saturday evening we found ourselves transported to Whitechapel in 1888, tasked with solving the spate of murders currently plaguing the town.
Split into three groups, we found ourselves part of the worker’s union and we’d recently arrived in Whitechapel in the hope of finding employment. Very quickly we were put to work in the pub, The Ten Bells, where we were collecting glasses, emptying ashtrays and sweeping the floor. Of course, doing that for the duration would be pretty tedious so it should come as no surprise that it wasn’t to be the typical quiet first day on the job! We’d very quickly forgotten about our jobs and were soon wandering the town, talking to the locals as bodies dropped around us.
Once you’re out of that initial scene-setter, you’re left to it. You’re not chaperoned by any characters or given a list of tasks to complete. You have to make your own missions. Which actually turns out to be a lot less daunting than it sounds! You’re given leads you can follow when listening to characters and can also ask them about things they may have seen or heard which will have you exploring different parts of the town. As well as this, the townsfolk are a boisterous bunch and there’s plenty of fighting and other such incidents occurring around you that you can choose to watch, maybe you might learn something. Or just ignore it and stick to the path you’ve decided for yourself. We did a bit of both and that’s the beauty of this show, it feels as though there are a million different ways that you can interact with it and make your own story out of your time in Whitechapel!
This show was incredibly dense. Towards the end, they reconvene your groups and leave you to discuss who you think the guilty party is. If we weren’t already aware of it, here is where the scale of this thing became apparent. Our group had essentially split off into four smaller groups despite having more or less the same starting points. And the amount of information that each group brought to the table was outstanding. That there was so much evidence floating about was truly stunning. Some people presented their case and we were able to counter them with information that we’d learned and then someone would counter us. The scale of what’s going on and is available to you is mind-blowing.
And that’s what’s brilliant about this show. It’s completely non-linear as far as your interaction goes. Yeah, you can sit on the sidelines and wait for certain events to happen but you can truly make your own story here. Case in point, we decided very early on that instead of trying to find the guilty character, we were going to prove that a certain character was innocent. That’s the way we decided to go with it and the script allowed us to play it that way.
One word of warning would be that, because of this richness, there’s a hell of a lot going on. You won’t leave this show feeling like you’ve discovered everything and we reckon that’d be impossible without multiple visits. So, if you need everything wrapped up neatly at the conclusion, just be aware that you may leave disappointed. To us, that just made everything more realistic. It was great to share theories and stories within our group realising that we’d experienced things that no-one else had.
And we have to quickly mention the theming. This town was fully realised and alive – fog lingered just above the ground and the air carried pungent odours that reflected the squalid condition of the town.
Whilst the improvisation of the actors was fine, the script didn’t appear to allow for much flexibility. At one point, I tried to say something that, in the moment, seemed reasonable in order to move things in a certain direction. Now, the actors reacted to it for a few seconds but then, jarringly, returned to the script without ever referencing what I’d said again. Ultimately, the script can’t be too open-ended but it feels like obvious audience diversions weren’t considered. The script seemed too well nailed to the clock, timed to perfection to not allow for much deviation. It only happened the once (in part because I decided to not really say much more than what I thought was expected of me after that) but it was definitely immersion breaking.
Whitechapel – Suspects, Lunatics And A Leather Apron (2017) Apocalypse Events
We had a load of fun at Suspects, Lunatics And A Leather Apron. It's an experience that feels fresh and we really hope the team come up with a similar show in the future!
Ticket Price: £26
Address: 1888 Sidney Street, E1 2HH