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The Viper Squad – CtrlAlt_Repeat, Zoom

Reviewer: Richard Maguire

Writer: James Dillon

Directors: David Alwyn and Sid Phoenix

The 80s are back in this interactive crime caper from CtrlAlt_Repeat. Masked men have stormed a bank and taken the staff and customers hostage. It’s your job to get these hostages out alive. It sounds fun – and it should be – but this mission is drawn out so slowly that the Zoom call lasts over 110 minutes and you’ll soon give up caring whether the hostages live or die.

It starts well and entering the Zoom room a little early you’ll be able to view some commercials from the decade of shoulder-pads and glamour. But these are soon interrupted by live broadcasts from The Viper Squad, a crack militia used by the NYPD for these kinds of emergencies where ordinary folk are in danger. You are the Viper Squad’s new recruits. The success of the assignment will depend on you.

Control, played in the press night show by Joanna Brown, splits the audience into three groups – Intelligence, Negotiations and Tactical – and the dreaded break-out rooms beckon. The Negotiators appear to have the most to do in the show, speaking to the hostages and the criminals, and helping a forgotten worker on the first floor to find somewhere he can hide. The Intelligence people have the task of trying to work out who the armed men are, sifting through the various clues that are given throughout the show.

Try to avoid being put in the Tactical group, as here people had nothing to do at all, except look on passively as conversations between the Negotiators and the criminals are stretched out so long that it’s easy to lose the storyline. There are a few ‘set-pieces’ where everyone is invited to participate through the chat room, but when people did type their answers or instructions the creative team ignored them. Perhaps we were meant to shout out our answers, but without a leader to make these decisions, it’s not entirely clear what was expected of us.

The team work hard and along with Brown we have Adam Blake, and James Dillon as the group leaders, but best of all is Edward Cartwright as Neville, the electrician who is brought into the drama by accident. But despite their best efforts, the energy and the excitement of the first minutes of The Viper Squad spirals away in its second hour.

The show runs through November and this gives the team time to trim the fat off this show and go for something more streamlined instead. The audience need more to do, and the set pieces need to be managed more smoothly. It’s a great premise, but at the moment it’s a clunky and as big as one of those mobile phones from the 1980s.

Runs until 22 November 2020

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The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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