Creators: Lu Curtis, Paul Hernes Barnes, Eva H. Lee, Diana Vallverdu I Cabrera, Mengqiu Xu and Zhaolin Zhou
We have an increasingly troubled engagement with the Internet, we rely on it, love but also resent its overwhelming intrusion into our lives. But imagine if technological progress had stopped in the 1980s and the Internet have never been invented. Ants Theatre Company offer you the chance to do just that, delivering a genuine fax machine to your door for a very unusual adventure game.
Are you the right choice? When messages from another dimension start to arrive first you must prove your credentials and then when your contact trusts you, they will ask you to help fix the link between the worlds using your code deciphering skills and the fax machine.
This is interesting stuff from Ants and requires a great deal of logistical preparation for each show with unknown numbers of players. A courier will (safely) deliver the machine to your door on the day of the show and collect it afterwards; email instructions and access codes will be sent in advance; and you will need your phone during the experience for technical help and for a couple of story-related activities. All data is reassuringly managed in accordance with GDPR requirements.
For anyone born later than about 1990 a fax machine may be like looking at a biplane, a piece of antiquated technology from long ago, but it is surprisingly straightforward to use with detailed instructions provided. Part of the show opener includes information on making calls, sending and receiving faxes that by the end of the show will feel like second nature. The machine is mounted on a colourful plastic box filled with lights, secret hatches and other bits and pieces that motor the show, though don’t be surprised if a few turn out to be red herrings.
The scenario is fun, using the parallel dimension idea to create a fairly complete concept within which the game operates consistently while name checking Tim Berners Lee and Elon Musk specifically. And while you feel like a hero after completing the challenges, ultimately, you’re left wondering whether you did the right thing and what impact the span, depth and relentlessness of the Internet really has on us all.
The challenges are fairly straight-forward; a bit of cryptography, mental maths and some hunting around the contraption for hidden objects, but there’s also a chance for some creativity when you’re asked to fax back or call-in specific responses to the tasks. The whole experience takes around an hour if you work fast and can be completed alone or with your household, although there is no volume control so you may want to warn the neighbours that the effects can get quite loud.
With all equipment-led experiences there may be some technical challenges but a helpline is provided to deal with any start-up issues, although don’t be too quick to assume something has officially gone wrong. We Still Fax is a blast from the past but an entertaining and unusual way to spend yet another lockdown evening. Technologies are not always progressive, older inventions can be repurposed for the modern world so if Ants make us rethink the value of the Internet, maybe the fax is due a twenty-first century comeback.
Runs here until 14 March 2021