Game play: Lamplighters @ORLTheatre

The world of spies as depicted in John Le Carre novels seems to be an unlikely source of amusement. All that drinking, bureaucracy and lying. But in Lamplighters it’s really a backdrop for some inspired improvisation and audience participation. 

Led by Neil Connolly as the spymaster, he’s living out a childhood dream to play spies... With a bunch of random audience members. 

It’s an immersive theatre experience. Which means that when you enter The Old Red Lion Theatre you can expect to be part of the entertainment.  But only if you want to. 

After he’s finished chatting you up at the start (and sizing you up), there’s a slightly unconvincing mystery to solve, villains to find and stop. And a secret briefcase. And he needs the help of the audience to make it happen. And get laughs.

This concept works well in making the ordinary seem hilarious. Assuming there’s always the right balance of weird and adventurous audience members to make the show hilarious every night. 

On my night the audience member enlisted as the “lamplighter” was the best. The role entailed leaving messages in chalk to signal all was okay. He kept drawing surreal chalk messages on the wall and didn’t see why they were funny. Most of us were expecting him to draw a penis or some other naughty part of the body. 

The show was first seen at London’s VAULT Festival in 2018, where it won the festival’s People’s Choice Award.

Directed by Dean Rodgers, Lamplighters is at the Old Red Lion Theatre until August 18. And they’re keeping the air conditioning on during the performance so the only one who has to sweat is Connolly. 


Photos by Birdman Foxglove Photography 

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