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Online thriller The Mermaid’s Tongue puts ‘players at the centre of their own story’

PUBLISHED: 10:15 21 October 2020 | UPDATED: 10:15 21 October 2020

Swamp Motel's latest online detective story The Mermaid's Tongue

Swamp Motel's latest online detective story The Mermaid's Tongue

Archant

Hackney based immersive theatre specialists Swamp Motel have released their second virtual detective game which sets us on the hunt for a powerful artefact

Swamp Motel's latest online detective story The Mermaid's Tongue Swamp Motel's latest online detective story The Mermaid's Tongue

The latest knotty online thriller by Hackney-based Swamp Motel starts with a life drawing class and a model taking her seat.

But a message board soon flashes up a plea to help find a missing class member, which sets us on a quest for The Mermaid’s Tongue.

Like its predecessor Plymouth Point, the interactive detective game is a timed hunt through a series of clues on real and fake websites to find a powerful artefact before it falls into the hands of the shady London stone Consortium.

Over a sweaty 80 minutes we listened to beyond-the-grave video messages, cracked clues and passwords, bid in a live auction and hacked into an art gallery’s CCTV feed.

Swamp Motel's latest online detective story The Mermaid's Tongue Swamp Motel's latest online detective story The Mermaid's Tongue

No spoilers but there were several jumpy moments that my kids really enjoyed.

Ollie Jones and Clem Garritty, creative directors of Swamp Motel, started the cyber shows after their usual business of immersive theatre was scuppered by Covid.

Part theatre, part mystery, the live participatory experience can be shared by up to six people in separate homes and captures the fun of an escape room.

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“Plymouth Point was a three week experiment that we tried with no idea if it would work, but people liked being at the centre of their own story,” says Ollie.

“You are the protagonist in a game that moves forward because of your actions plus it’s a nice Covid safe way for people to hang out with friends.”

Like Plymouth Point, which runs until the end of the year, Mermaid’s Tongue is “quite accessible” requiring only a basic knowledge of the internet.

Both blur the lines between fiction and reality and add a sprinkling of pagan ritual.

“It’s a spiritual sequel,” adds Ollie. “Instead of being on the hunt for a missing girl it’s a missing artefact which is needed to protect the world from corporate corruption.

“It’s a mix of real and manufactured stuff, different puzzles, and we tried some new things out to give people a fun challenge. Part of the magic is it’s an exciting experience that they don’t get every day.”

Sadly for Swamp Motel, making live immersive theatre is still not possible.

“It’s very expensive and requires selling lots of tickets to make it financially viable. Getting enough people to come to it is another issue given how everyone feels about going into communal spaces, so we will be staying in the online world for a bit longer.”

Clem adds: “What we really love, ultimately, is expressing new narratives to audiences and subverting their expectations along the way. People weren’t able to leave their houses and were using video-call constantly, so our challenge became: how to make that exciting and use the internet as a new platform for us - as experience makers - to engage audiences?”

Mermaid’s Tongue can be played by teams of 2-6 £15 per person www.themermaidstongue.com


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