By Ivonne Flores Kauffman
Looking for something unusual to do this summer? The Tape Escape, a mix between an escape room experience and immersive theatre, offers audiences the opportunity to decide the fate of movie characters by solving a set of puzzles before the time is up.
Resembling the Black Mirror: Bandersnatch’s concept, The Tape Escape takes audiences through a unique journey inspired by some of the biggest box-office hits of the 90s like Peter Pan, Singing in the Rain and Run Lola Run.
Co-created by Outside The March artistic director Mitchell Cushman, writer and performer Vanessa Smythe and video artist Nick Bottomley, The Tape Escape is the perfect experience for those who love immersive theatre, musicals, and 90s films.
The Tape Escape is set in what was once Queen Video, an iconic VHS rental store located in the Annex in Toronto. Though you can no longer rent movies in The Tape Escape, you can instead experience them because here, “the rentals happen to you.”
This experience offers three puzzling and engaging “indoor rentals” for players to choose from.
The Tape Escape offers some of the same qualities of an escape room: group collaboration, clues, a time limit — but the creators describe this experience as more of a “puzzle-infused scavenger hunt through an art installation.”
Here is our recap of what you can expect at The Tape Escape.
Love Without Late Fees
For those who love connecting the dots and following hopeless romantics in movies such as Sliding Doors and When Harry Met Sally, the Love Without Late Fees room is a perfect match.
In this story, players are set in the middle of a matchmaking service run by The Tape Escape, where single movie lovers are promised to find love. The idea behind this plot is that watching the right movie, at the right time, could ensure true love.
The tale is told through two fictional characters’ love affair; Sarah, a beautiful and successful young woman and Matt, a sweet and charming school teacher. Their love story develops in the span of six tapes, but as we all know, love is messy and unpredictable. Could Matt and Sarah live happily ever after? It all depends on the players; with 32 different possible endings, the love lives of the characters rely on the way players solve the puzzles.
So before taking this experience lightly, remember the fate of a couple lies in your hands.
If you are fascinated by time-traveling and mystical experiences like the 90s classic Groundhog Day, be sure to check out the Yesterday’s Heroes room.
Following a set of clues, Yesterday’s Heroes will take you through a series of dark and scary events that happened at The Tape Escape. This experience is all about solving the past to be free in the present and will be sure to get your gears turning.
Grown-Up’s Guide to Flying
This room tells the story of a girl who is in the process of going partially blind. Inspired by consultant Devon Healey, who herself has Stargardt's disease and is partially blind, the puzzles in this experience are very visually based. As the story evolves, the puzzles begin to privilege your other senses. In the final puzzle, the audience must collaborate to use their other four senses, with sight not being helpful at all.
Artistic director Mitchell Cushman said in an email statement that The Tape Escape was inspired by the fact that video rental stores are now virtually extinct.
Cushman explained that The Tape Escape was created “to recreate a communal, ‘get lost in a store’ experience, that feels like a distant memory.”
“Our mission as a theatre company is to create theatrical experiences for people who may not normally go to the theatre. Our hope is to bring out as many people as possible to the show...and immerse them in a live narrative experience that will linger with them after they leave. To 'disrupt their normal day,' you might say,” said Cushman regarding this project.
The Tape Escape accomplishes a 90s style atmosphere, resulting from the meticulous attention to detail by designers Anahita Dehbonehie and Nick Blair. Five thousand tapes, a stereo that still plays some of the most popular 90s tunes, old TVs and Super Nintendo consoles are just some of the elements used to create the perfect 90s inspired room.
If you are looking for a new experience with old friends, an exciting first date or you are just someone who loves films, you can’t miss The Tape Escape this summer.
The Tape Escape is located on 480 Bloor St. W. through August 25, 2019.