This escape room will blast you back into the past to your favourite 90s films

By Ivonne Flores Kauffman

The Tape Escape team. (CanCulture/Georgio Zikantas)

The Tape Escape team. (CanCulture/Georgio Zikantas)

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. 

(CanCulture/Georgio Zikantas)

(CanCulture/Georgio Zikantas)

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. 

Yesterday’s Heroes

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.      

(CanCulture/Georgio Zikantas)

(CanCulture/Georgio Zikantas)

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.

The Divided Brain: The documentary that will change the way you experience life

By Ivonne Flores Kauffman

Photo courtesy    The Divided Brain trailer

On April 9, The Divided Brain made its Canadian premiere at the Isabel Bader Theatre in downtown Toronto. The film, directed by Manfred Becker and produced by Canadian Vanessa Dylyn, seeks to explain how the human brain works and the importance it has regarding the way we see ourselves and the world around us.

Dylyn, who is an Emmy-nominated and Canadian Screen Award-winning producer, presented the film to the  audience. The Divided Brain is not the first documentary Dylyn has produced. She is responsible for other films such as Werner Herzog, a documentary about our relationship with volcanoes, The Woman Who Joined the Taliban, for CBC, and Leslie Caron: The Reluctant Star, an arts documentary on the career of actress Leslie Caron, star of An American in Paris.

The documentary was inspired by Dr. Iain McGilchrist’s book The Master and his Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World. McGilchrist, a soft-spoken British psychiatrist and neuroscientist, has a radical theory on the way our brain works. He believes most of the problems our planet is facing today are the result of our brains’ left hemisphere taking full control over our thoughts and perceptions of life.

The documentary argues that Western societies are failing to find balance when it comes to relationships, knowledge and Mother Nature. The world is facing critical economic, social and environmental issues. McGilchrist’s theory argues the reason behind these problems might be related to the idea that the left hemisphere has hijacked our brain and that it cannot see the full picture when it comes to our actions and thoughts. We could compare the left hemisphere as the way an extremely paranoid person thinks. They might be right about every single detail, but they are wrong about everything. The left hemisphere is excellent at organizing and accomplishing things. However, it fails to understand them in depth.

McGilchrist believes Westerners have focused on small details like making money, acquiring power and creating technologies; all of these pursuits dictated by the left hemisphere or as he calls it “the master of the brain.” However, according to him, if we used the right hemisphere with the same passion we allow the left one takes control, our world would be a much happier and healthier space. The right hemisphere in our brain is the one that dictates emotions such as love; it’s the one that can see the magnificence within Mother Nature and instead of destroying it, it understands our bodies are connected to it.

To support McGilchrist’s theory the documentary follows him around the world as he not only interviews experts but gets together with people who have lost the ability to use both of their brains’ hemispheres as result of strokes or other damages.

In addition, the documentary includes interviews with actor-comedian John Cleese, neuroanatomist Dr. Jill Bolte, pioneering neuroscientist Dr. Michael Gazzaniga, former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, neuroscientist Jurg Kesselring, Aboriginal elder and scientist Dr. Leroy Little Bear and neuroscientist Onur Gunturkun. All the subjects interviewed added some evidence to support Dr. McGilchrist’s theory. Dr. Kesselring invited some of his patients to show the way their brains work after suffering from different injuries that affected the efficiency with which they can either use the right or left hemisphere of their brain.  Dr. Little Bear explained Indigenous connection with Mother Nature could be traced to a more predominant use of the right hemisphere and a cultural deeper understanding of our relationship with Nature.

After the screening, author Carolyn Abraham hosted a discussion via Skype with McGilchrist, Dr. Norman Doidge, author of The Brain That Changes Itself, and Dr. Jordan Peterson who wrote 12 Rules for Life. The discussion allowed for the questioning of McGilchrist’s theory, which the psychiatrists present did not entirely agree.

Perhaps, McGilchrist’s theory is unconventional and can’t be proven, but given the crises we are facing today, it might be worth it to think critically about this documentary and actually look within ourselves to create a shift in the society.