Hilariously described as ‘breaking the last taboo in immersive theatre: doing a show on stage’, the energy in ‘Lamplighters’ feels much less like immersive theatre and much more like one of those party games that are massively fun after a few drinks, where bluffing, improv and hysterical laughter are as key as actual gameplay. Created by Neil Connolly and Dean Rodgers, the latter of ‘Crystal Maze’ and ‘Heist’ fame, ‘Lamplighters’ gives back as much as its audience is willing to put in.
Connolly plays a spymaster, George Sneezey – loud groans from the three people in the audience who have ever read John Le Carré. In fact, no prior knowledge of Le Carré’s novels are needed or indeed even desirable. The play opens with a little bit of chat about what books people have last read, and how much young Connolly wanted to play at being a spy as a little kid – friendly, chatty and setting up the interactive dynamic, but not really relevant to the main action.
And who is generating this main action? Well, the fact is, it’s you, the audience. Connolly asks for volunteers to play, among other people, a ‘bagman’ (bribe carrier), a honey trap, a MI6 boffin, a handler, a John Doe spy (the role with the most meat, for any aspiring thesps), a janitor, a police officer, and, of course, a lamplighter – Le Carré’s term for a person who makes sure an area is secured for spy business.
George Sneezey (groan, groan) is barely present, and Connolly’s role is more to facilitate a big game of make-believe, which he does with the delighted exuberance of someone who really does bloody love a good party game.
It’s not really necessary to follow the story, but it is worth getting involved with the scene-by-scene audience dramas, which include a tense game of charades and a laser maze made by handheld torches.
This is a four-star review, but comes with the caveat that this could be a two-star show if you’re sat in a room full of shy, easily embarrassed people; the script doesn’t really bear close scrutiny. You’ll just have to hope that you get a good cast on the night…