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Crooks review at a secret location, London – ‘carefully-crafted immersive show’

Colab's Crooks. Photo: Chrystal Ding. Colab's Crooks. Photo: Chrystal Ding.
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Colab Theatre’s latest immersive production, Crooks, gives audiences the chance to do their best impression of Tom Hiddleston in The Night Manager: can you successfully infiltrate a drugs cartel, bring down the leader and – crucially – not die while doing it?

The company have found a brilliant setting: a filthy garage leading into a basement with damp stone walls and lots of heavy metal doors. Split into teams, the audience is put into different scenarios with the characters. The performers really go for it on the ferocity front. Mostly it’s directed towards other actors, but occasionally a disobedient punter feels their wrath.

Its huge advantage over a great many immersive shows is that there’s no way of accidentally missing out on bits of narrative or action simply by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Everyone is guaranteed to experience everything. That said, there’s way too much time spent waiting conveniently near the cash bar, while the actors usher groups to the next episode.

Size is everything here. This isn’t the sprawling world of Punchdrunk, but instead a carefully crafted microcosm of thuggery and drug smuggling. The small scale allows the audience get to know the characters and, chatting and improvising, they get to know us too.

A moral challenge runs throughout – stay straight or be bent – which is hard to take too seriously: the experience of puzzling through this detailed world is too enjoyable and entertaining to let anything like conscience get in the way.

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Verdict
Carefully crafted, small-scale immersive show set in London’s seedy underworld 
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