Hollow Hotel is the latest immersive theatre show from differenceEngine, who in the past gave us Heist and The People's Revolt. In this one you're the invited guest of a new hotel opening that holds a dark secret - one of the guests has a craving to kill the others.
You book rooms depending on your group size; 2,4, or 6 which just seem to determine the room you start the story in. Don't worry singles are assigned to rooms too. Before getting into your room you meet some of the characters you'll meet through the story at the bar. I found myself becoming a CTO for a new application start up that one of the other guests was looking to get off the ground.
The hotel room serves as an ice-breaker challenge that brings you closer to some of the particpants, which is a really good first encounter. It's interrupted however by a phone call from another guest indicating something bad has happened.
From there the group is split up and taken through various storylines that have you undertaking challenges; fail and you die. Don't worry, we're not talking Saw type games, think more a Crystal Maze lock-in. Dying does serve as a mechanism to break the group up further and put you on a different story arc.
The ending does bring you altogether for a final pay-off.
The concept is very good and having just come out of a pilot run we're starting to see the potential of the show, but there is still more to go. The ending in particular isn't strong enough and it feels like you're rushed through it without a full explanation of what was going on. The actual show bit lasts about an hour. It flew past very quickly but was felt by most that the experience could have benefited from spending a bit more time in each room.
It was only when we got together having left the show and discussed our individual story lines that we were able to piece together the overall plot. I'm sure that is intentional but with large groups consisting of people who may not know each other it's unlikely that the big picture will be got by most. We got lucky in that our group was comfortable being split up and we took the opportunity to do so.
One of our guide characters was obviously new to the production making a couple of mistakes and at one point walking off leaving us in a room whilst I think she went to seek clarification on what we were to do next as events had meant we hadn't quite stuck to the intended plot.
There were also a couple of other challenges where it wasn't obvious how succeeding would offer a different onward route to failing it, which devalues the efforts somewhat.
So, the seeds of what could be a good experience are there, but there's still a little way to go. I might go back towards the end of the run. I am intrigued in trying out some of the other story lines and hopefully they've bedded in the show to make it better.
With the ending they should look to rearrange the room so the guests surround the bad guy rather than what they have in place where most don't get the benefit of the pay off. Some sequences could also benefit from smoke machines, which would work really well in the rooms.
For those looking for a Punch Drunk experience, this isn't it; I also don't think anything will ever match that. This is an OK way to spend an evening, just lower your expectations a bit if you think the Hollow Hotel holds a Drowning Man.