New ‘escape room’ experience hits London theatre

TRIO: Dismantle This Room was created by Nina Segal, Milli Bhatia and Ingrid Marvin (Pic credit: Niall McDiarmid)

by LAUREN CODLING

AN IMMERSIVE “escape room” experience aiming to question power and privilege will be staged at London’s Royal Court Theatre this month.

Entirely audience led, Dismantle This Room is an hour-long experience which will see individuals collaborate to “interrogate the established power structures in theatre”.

They will be required to partake in a series of interactive tasks, including puzzle solving.

From there, there are numerous possibilities for audiences to choose within the experience.

They can select different narratives, ranging from staging a violent revolution or being able
to go undercover. No two performances will be the same.

Previously shown at the Bush Theatre, director Milli Bhatia said the most common reaction
was that audiences always finished the experience wanting to discuss it.

“We often had groups that felt they still wanted to have a conversation about it, so they’d have a pint afterwards,” the London-based director told Eastern Eye.

Audiences are invited to participate in a series of tasks within Dismantle (Pic credit: Hassan Joof)

“Overwhelmingly, it makes people think deeply, which is what we wanted to happen – it is about debate and that is what we hoped to give audiences from this.”

The production, which is a collaboration with writer Nina Segal and producer Ingrid Martin,
came about when the trio questioned themes of power and privilege in the arts industry.

They understood they had been given some power by being able to create and share a
performance in a prestigious London theatre, so wanted to use the opportunity responsibly.

Ultimately, the creatives wanted audiences to consider the questions they had about the power structures within theatre. To make it immersive ensured that audiences could fully involve themselves and explore the issue.

“We wanted to interrogate form in a different way – we didn’t want to make a play that
served the thing we wanted to explore,” she said.

“We sometimes allow audiences to feel too comfortable, but we really wanted to put
them in the centre.”

The decisions start as soon as audiences engage with Dismantle – they are invited to pay
whichever price they feel is suitable for their own individual level of privilege.

This was significant to the creators as they hoped it would support the discussions that
partaking audience members would have.

“We do hope that we will see a diversity of people who engage with it,” she said.

The experience is based on the concept of escape rooms (Pic credit Hassan Joof)

The 26-year-old has been working as a trainee director at Royal Court since early 2018.

She described the experience as “extraordinary”, but Bhatia is also aware there are more platforms required for Asian voices.

People are writing and creating work, but they do not have the space to share it.

“I want to see people in positions of power giving south Asian writers more platforms because there are some really amazing artists coming through – such as Zia Ahmed and Rabiah Hussain,” the director, whose previous credits include Hijabi Monologues, said. “I want to see artists like them take up more space.”

Bhatia began her career when she joined the National Youth Theatre in 2009. Starting out as a performer, she cites the company as being paramount to her teenage years.

It encouraged her to interrogate the world at a deeper level.

“Theatre has always done that for me,” she said.

Dismantle This Room is on at the Royal Court from Saturday (6) until April 27.