Today was the last day for a while that I’ll be pretending to be a miniature golf professional practicing on a tiny circle of grass just outside Haberdasher’s Hall in Smithfield. It’s been a lovely way of ticking over on weekends for me, and a lovely company to work for. It’s a good idea and it works. It’s a treasure hunt in an incredible part of town, employing lots of people and using them very creatively.
People buy a ticket to an unusual experience, normally on a Saturday, at the very heart of this ancient city. (Today was an exception as we were doing a private party.) They sort themselves into teams and walk the streets of London looking for clues. I have been part of the fabric of this beautiful thing. I have, essentially, been a human clue. I’ve never played the game so I have no idea if what I’m doing is in keeping with the other human clues, but the guys who have overarching vision on this trust the thing they’ve made, and trust their actors.
I’m off now, but it’s a jobshare anyway so we can go and do other work. Just because I’m off to Oxford and elsewhere doesn’t mean you can’t come and play the game. And typically for me I’m telling you about the job only when it’s too late to see ME do it. The job will still run though.
It’s called Dead Man’s Hand. Book here. I know I’d enjoy playing it.
They’ve really thought about it. It’s a deep game with many layers of which my interaction is but a crust.
From what I’ve gleaned it’s a tale of murder and gambling. But I know virtually nothing about the audience experience apart from my bit, where they almost always seem to be having a lovely time.
The teams explore a truly ancient part of town searching for clues. In the process they find all sorts of unusual hidden secrets. They also meet a few pretendy humans like me, who make them do stuff. I make them play mini golf, but I also just … play with them for a bit. There’s a WhatsApp group where we all track numbers and logistics. Most of us have never met one another, but we are all enjoying and sharing the utterly random nature of the interactions we are having. The company – A Door in a Wall – have managed to find and gainfully employ lots of playful people like myself, who then just listen to the people that come through and work out how best to play with them and make them enjoy themselves. We have clues to give out. I give my clues out as a reward when I see they’ve had fun. It’s heartening, after many weeks having done this, to know for certain that there’s almost always a way to jink someone into a childish place. Even if – as they once did – they open with something hideous like “You’re an actor and you have some clues for us. We want them.” Needless to say that team had to complete a large number of very difficult miniature golf challenges, and ended up laughing like children. As the gatekeeper I can do what I think is needed, and my job is to make it fun if I can. My only deep brief is to keep the interaction reasonably short, and don’t say things that sound like clues but aren’t as that way madness lies.
If you’re visiting London and have a weekend, this is an unusual way to see a historic bit of town that isn’t in the guide books, in a way that could never be replicated.
And it works even if it’s raining!