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‘Saint Jude’ review

  • Theatre, Immersive
  • 100 Petty France, Westminster
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
Saint Jude, Swamp Motel, 2023
Photo: Alexander Nicolaou

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Exciting, AI-powered immersive conspiracy thriller set in a strange medical institute

This gripping immersive show from Swamp Motel really sneaks up on you. At first I thought I’d signed up to do an hour of light admin duties. But in the end, ‘Saint Jude’ takes a very different path: there’s more than a note of the classic Cold War conspiracy thriller to it, crossed with the golden age of choose-your-own-adventure novels.

Even a description as vague as that will leave you more clued-up than I was when I went in, so consider everything that follows a mild spoiler. 

The official story – and, indeed, your experience of the early phases of the show – is that you’re a volunteer at Saint Jude’s, a highly unusual coma clinic. After a breezy group orientation session from Bryan Moriarty’s chipper supervisor Stefan, we’re each put to work at our own clunky retro console, which we’re supposedly using to remotely access and talk to the subconsciousness of coma patients – or ‘sleepers‘ – in the hope of stimulating their brains and waking them up.

What’s not a spoiler is to say that the ‘actor’ playing the patient we speak to is in fact an AI. I’m not one of those people who wet themselves boringly over ChatGPT. But here the AI – from a company called Charisma – is deployed very smartly, in part because I started the show rather underestimating it. In the beginning, it genuinely felt like I was meant to be wowed by the fact I was having a stilted conversation with a man who was in fact a computer programme, doing slightly mundane things like asking him to describe his surroundings. However, things… get out of hand, in a good way. Again, I don’t want to get into specifics. But think ‘The Parallax View’, think ‘Bandersnatch’, think the iconic text-based computer game of ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’.

It’s a short show, that’ll cost you £25 to sit in an office cubicle for an hour (tops). You’re not getting a lavish Punchdrunk-style physical environment to wander around. There’s no bar or Instagrammable bits or much in the way of interaction with anybody who isn’t an AI. But ‘Saint Jude’ is a way more engrossing piece of storytelling than near enough every other immersive show in town. There are five credited writers, and Swamp Motel itself is a five-strong collective, plus there’s the AI itself. I strongly suspect the whole thing has been enormously complicated to put together. But at the end of the day it doesn’t feel overly complicated. It’s a good old-fashioned adventure that largely takes place in the most immersive place of all: your head.

Andrzej Lukowski
Written by
Andrzej Lukowski


Event website:
100 Petty France
£25. Runs 1hr

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