The Grift is an immersive, site-specific experience – part theatre and part game – staged in the opulent Town Hall Hotel in Bethnal Green.The evening is fun, exciting and splashy, but lacks true drama. The stakes are never quite high enough – the con is never truly on.
The show drops its intimate audience into the middle of an adventure in which they are trained in the art of the con. Participants meet characters, solve clues and get a masterclass in the ways of the grifter, in training to pull off one final swindle and take down an unsavoury criminal mastermind.
In small teams, the audience scurry across and around the town hall, having their intelligence tested and learning scams like The Pig In The Poke and The Round-The Corner. After visiting five unique spaces across the hotel, the groups come together for an unexpected and explosive ending.
Conceived, written and directed by Tom Salamon – who makes his return to the UK after Accomplice at the Menier and Goosebumps Alive in The Vaults – the production is a little more logistical than mystical: the majority of the action is actually active orienteering as you make your way round the building following extremely straightforward directions. The tests of intelligence themselves are well-devised and often remarkably difficult. Whilst the cons are relatively simple, there is a real thrill in acting with and reacting to the piece’s actors.
Rachel Harper is a flustered Elouise, while Laura Kirman keeps everything under control in perhaps the hottest broom cupboard in East London. Mark Oosterveen is a charming and convincing – if somewhat underused – party host. Alastair Kirton dwells in the hotel’s subterranean swimming pool and Kevin Moore can be found across screens and in letters across the hotel.
Daniel Miller is the charming, straight talking friend you make in a pub, whereas Dylan Allcock is the endearing and spritely boy you bump into on a night out. Together, the actors are a brilliant team – although hardly ever together. Each has the gift of the gab as well as the grift, and knows exactly how to hint, persuade or coddle their audience into progressive through the performance.
The experience will differ dependent on who you are fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to have in your group, and how much they choose to buy into the experience. The Town Hall Hotel at Bethnal Green is a spectacular venue, and its guests bemused and bewildered to see small, mismatched groups charging across the building clutching keys.
The evening is fun, exciting and splashy, but lacks true drama. The stakes are never quite high enough – the con is never truly on.