Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Once the Musical

For Andy's birthday a few weeks ago, I bought him tickets to see "Once", a musical playing at The Princess Theatre in Melbourne. We used to go to the theatre quite a bit in London, but haven't done at all since living in Melbourne. Partly because a lot of the bigger shows we've already seen, and partly because it can be pretty expensive. But I'd read some good reviews about Once and didn't know anything about it (I didn't even know that it was based on a movie), so thought it would be nice to get tickets for us.

We made it into a bit of a date night, with dinner and drinks at Melbourne Supper Club first. It was a beautiful night so we were able to sit outside on the rooftop garden, called Siglo, which was busy even when we arrived at 6pm. (I'm not sure why it has a different name as it's the same place). We had some delicious tapas: the prawn wontons were my favourite, and Andy just had to order the gourmet sausage rolls. Unfortunately the service was pretty poor - our waitress seemed pretty out of it, she never smiled and would take plates away or put things on the table without saying a word. The kicker was that she took my wine glass away while there was still wine in it - unforgivable! She was so fast about it I couldn't even say "I'm not finished with that!" and was just left stewing about my unfinished wine. I had read some really good reviews about Melbourne Supper Club so it was disappointing to have such bad service, but we did leave with full bellies and the atmosphere was really good so maybe we will give it another try sometime.
Siglo, Melbourne Supper Club's rooftop

The Princess Theatre is just a few meters down the road from Melbourne Supper Club. We had tickets in the Dress Circle, which was the first level up. Those that had tickets in the Stalls (the floor) are invited on stage before the show and in the interval to have a drink with the cast, as the stage is set up like a bar. (Those tickets were pretty pricey though... I settled for a more moderately priced ticket for us! I actually considered getting a restricted view ticket as they were REALLy cheap, but thought that might be a bit of a rubbish birthday present!) The whole cast can play a musical instrument, and they are onstage playing throughout the whole show, which was pretty cool. The story line is simple: A Czech girl meets an Irish boy in Dublin, and she recognises his talent as a musician and songwriter. He is about to give up music, but she pushes him to pursue his dream. It's a romantic comedy; the two are both nursing respective broken hearts whist falling in love, and there are a lot of laugh out loud lines. The main difference between this musical and others is that most of the songs don't advance the plot much, they are actually songs that the main character wrote, but of course the lyrics have meanings parallel to the storyline. Also the music isn't really cheesy-musical like music, it's got more of an Indie/pop/folksy feel to it.

I really enjoyed it, although the second half was a bit of a let down compared to the first. Also the theatre was freezing, we had air-conditioning blowing right on us, and the seats were pretty worn and uncomfortable! It was worth seeing though, and I think it would appeal to people who don't like traditional musicals as well as those that do.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Escapism

Escape Rooms have been popping up all over Melbourne since about April of this year. I read an article in last month's Time Out magazine reviewing 6 different Escape Rooms in the city, and promptly forwarded the article to Andy with an excited "Let's do this!!!" at the top. An escape room is basically a live, interactive puzzle, where you are locked in a room for a set amount of time, and you have to work out different codes and puzzles in order to get out of the room. 

Yesterday we went to Escapism, which is located in Strike Bowling Alley at QV in the city. There are 3 different rooms to choose from here, each with a different scenario. We went as a group of five, and chose the "Forensic" room to solve. This is the scenario given about this room:

You are part of a team of investigators on the trail of a serial killer. You are close to identifying him and he knows it. Can you catch him before he gets to you?

This room is meant to be the most challenging out of the 3, with a difficulty rating of 9/10. In fact, when we got there we were told that less than 10% of groups had been able to solve the puzzle! You have a time limit of 50 minutes, which goes by super quick. It's not a cheap activity, on weekends the room costs $150, but split between 5 people that wasn't too bad. 

I won't go into too much detail as that would ruin it for anyone else going. We were blindfolded and led into a room, the door slamming shut behind us. Taking off the blindfold, we looked around and were in a police station. There are clues and information all around the room, but in the beginning we had NO IDEA where to start. We were given a phone so we could call and ask questions if we were stuck, but they wouldn't just give us information, rather they just sort of confirmed whether or not we were on the right track. We were encouraged to call before going in actually, as this room had such a high failure rate. 

Anyway it probably took us 15-20 minutes before we cracked the first clue. But what an amazing feeling we had when we did it! I actually solved it in the end (although the whole thing was a great team effort) and jumped up and down for joy when I opened a locked drawer that gave us another clue. We got a bit of confidence from that, and worked pretty solidly for the next 45 minutes. There were actually 3 different rooms that were opened with different clues, and ultimately we had to work out who the murderer was in order to escape the room. With about 5 minutes left we were SO CLOSE, we were in the last room and on the cusp of figuring out the clue that would lead us out. Andy phoned them and asked if we could have more time... I thought they would definitely say no but there was no one booked in after us so they said we could have 10 extra minutes. Shortly after we ESCAPED THE ROOM, so I'm not sure we actually used that extra time, but it did give us some breathing space. 

Oh man, the feeling when we got out of the room! It was such a buzz. The whole thing was super fun and engaging from start to finish. It was such a great way to spend an afternoon with some friends, and when we went for dinner later on we could not stop talking about it. We were of course super proud to have actually escaped given the failure rate. I think we will definitely be doing another one of these sometime soon, and this looks like a possible activity for when my family comes to visit in December (only 6 weeks from now!) Anyway if you are in Melbourne, or here on holiday, I would highly suggest doing one of these Escape Rooms.