A mysterious locked up stranger, hidden clues, aerosolized pollutants, and the end of the world. Will you figure out the many mysteries in time to save you and your group?
The Shelter opens with a video, which introduces the small group of participants to the world in which we are about to spend the next hour inside. Brisbane has become a hotspot for acid rain, widespread wildfires, and toxic pollutants. The only hope for citizens is to be chosen as part of the “civilian rescue lottery”, which evacuates small groups daily to New Zealand (which is, of course, safe from the end of the world chaos).
Our group of evacuees is to be lead by Sergeant Blackshaw. Upon arrival to the bunker, however, Blackshaw is nowhere to be found. The group is met instead by a mysterious locked up stranger by the name of Charlie, played by Matthew Bengtson. Without giving too much away, the next hour is spent solving puzzles, trying to figure out why Sergeant Blackshaw is not there to guide us, and wondering whether Charlie can be trusted.
The Shelter is described as escape-room-esque. The only major differences between this piece and traditional escape rooms is that there is a more nuanced overarching narrative, and an actor inside the room with you. The character of Charlie didn’t help to solve any of the puzzles, but instead drove the narrative. Although a traditional escape room arguably has elements of theatricality, I certainly enjoyed how The Shelter takes the structure of this existing form and moulds it to better suit a theatre audience.
I loved the space and the props used! The bunker was in the downstairs area of a worn Queenslander, covered in quarantine tape and black plastic. I felt like it was suitably apocalyptic-Brisbane, and set the scene really well. I particularly appreciated the contents of the first aide box, and the telecommunication device, which was made by director Regan Ainsdale.
I do think that the experience you have for a piece such as this is very much shaped by the group that you are placed in. As the other people completing the game with me were already known to each other, there were definitely moments where I felt a little excluded. Although this was in no way the fault of actor that we were with I do think that there could perhaps be more moments of intervention to ensure that all participants felt like they were contributing. This would, however, be an excellent activity to complete with a group of friends.
Overall, this was a really fun way to spend my Saturday afternoon and, as there are multiple endings, I would definitely go again.