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BWW Review: 80 DAYS: A REAL-WORLD ADVENTURE, Underbelly Festival

Jul. 21, 2019  

Baron Pendleton and the (Semi) Reform Club pin teams against one other in what becomes one of the coolest feats in London. With only about 80 minutes' worth of time, participants need to trot between the Southbank and Covent Garden to gather clues, funds, and make pressing purchases ahead of their trip around the world. Whoever makes it back in time to hop on the train and manages to travel the Earth in the least amount of days, wins.

Fire Hazard Games are back with a new interactive adventure. Marrying technology with concrete activities, 80 Days: A Real-World Adventure feels like playing a video-game in real life. The company orchestrates the experience incredibly well, not only succeeding in giving the audience full agency in their journey but also stimulating their curiosity through the search of facts and oddities in the streets of the city.

Using their mobile phones to find one clue after the next in a curious contest of orienteering, every decision the explorers make will change their specific end result, rewarding their organisation or turning their duds into hilarious mishaps. Unlike many immersive shows where the creators push for groups to be separated, here the parties are arranged in advance through the system on their company's website and one can rest assured that they'll be able to go through with their chosen companions instead of strangers.

The dynamics of the online game are clear and easy to understand and The Navigator is only a phone call away in case something were to go somewhat wrong. The cast is delightful in their steampunk-ish outfits and cheery vibe. Nicholas Anscombe leads as the camp and vain Baron, whose ad-libbing is as eccentric as his scripted interactions; and Matt Vickery is amiably bright too as the bizarre botanist Hawkins, donning jewelers glasses and helping the curious crowd in any way he can.

The use of mobile technology to lead the path gives the audience freedom to establish the pace and targets for their own race, and the absence of a strict track to follow allows for the piece to become personal and ever-changing. This is quite clever on a practical level as well, in the sense that it gives space for the various teams to create their own system of work instead of being forced into one rigorous stream that might compromise one's participation.

All the efforts will pay at the very end when the train leaves and we set off to take the trip around the world that we've been frantically planning for. A solid gameplay ends the experience, topping off an exceptionally well organised trek that's as thrilling as it is sensible in the treatment of its players.

80 Days: A Real-World Adventure runs at Underbelly Festival until 29 September.

Photo credit: Sophia Romualdo


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