Sunday, 20 October 2019

Sydney Fringe Festival - Lilies & Dust Review

Hi all

I learned (thanks Marise!) about a pop-up interactive escape room experience that was coming to Sydney as part of the Sydney Fringe Festival, called Lilies & Dust.  I booked within about 15 minutes of hearing about it.  Although I have had mixed experiences with interactive experiences before, 2 of my all-time favourite interactive experiences to date were pop-up rooms (Art Heist and Monroe & Associates), so I jumped on the tickets.  And I’m glad I did, because the tickets were all snapped up pretty quickly.

From their website, the summary for Lilies & Dust is as follows:

Alas, your dear sweet cat is dead.
Or perchance, you’ve been misled?

Death, The Grim Reaper themself, contacts you offering a curious wager: if you and three courageous mortal allies can find your way to Death’s doorstep, you may try to win your unlucky feline back while its nine lives still hang in the balance.

But your team will have to work quickly to decipher the many curious puzzles and strange riddles set before you, combining clues and cracking padlocks swiftly to find the crucial nine keys. With only 47 minutes counting down and Death hovering smugly, the challenge won’t be easy. Time is ticking and Death won’t wait, are you quick enough to change your poor cat’s fate?

I didn’t realise it at the time, but (I think) this was not the first time that my team had been in the company of the artist who created Lilies & Dust.  The artist, who goes by the name of Seymour Nixen, was our game master (and live actor) at Second Telling Missions at Newtown.  She was our hilarious German guard at Second Telling Missions.  This time around, she played Death (well, at least I think it was her, but I never did get to see Death’s face).  I am sure that she was at least the writer of the show, but I suspect she was also our actor for the evening. 

We were our usual 4 team of players at Lilies & Dust, which was our 129th escape room (or escape room-like experience) in Australia and our 84th in Sydney.

Here’s what I thought:
·         the theming was really well done.  Although it was only a temporary room, the space was fantastic and the room was completely carried by Death herself and the quality of puzzles and props;
·         I have learned from my previous interactive experiences that by far the most enjoyable moments come from interacting with the live actors.  For example, I will never forget:
    • a moment in Art Heist where my team of 4 (including my wife who had a 6 month old baby hanging from her on a baby carrier) were all “hiding” under a tiny table trying to avoid being detected by security guards, whilst laughing uncontrollably because only our heads would fit under the table;
    • the time (also in Art Heist) where I bribed a security guard to look the other way; and
    • a moment in Monroe & Associates where the live actor and I took turns yelling abuse at each other;
·         those moments were so much fun and more enjoyable than the best-designed puzzle that I have seen in any escape room to date.  Live actors in a room can completely ruin an experience, but equally they can completely make the experience too;
·         I am really pleased to report that our game master was fantastic.  Death was a dry-witted and seemed to spend the whole hour barely tolerating our presence;
·         my favourite moment by far in Lilies & Dust was when I dressed up like a cat and did my best cat impersonation.  I think I caught Death off guard when I started pawing at her robes like a kitten, which I am very proud to report made Death break character and chuckle, which made the entire experience for me ;-)
·         the experience had a really nice mix of puzzles.  The puzzles were a mixture of pretty simple puzzles and a few tricky puzzles.  My experienced team was not at all bored by the puzzles and we found a couple of them pretty challenging.  There was no tech at all in the room (that I can remember), but I didn’t miss the tech at all;
·         the experience was INCREDIBLY cheap for what it was.  At only $82 per team, it was about half the price of a typical escape room.  I assume it was subsidised by Sydney Council as part of the Sydney Fringe; and
·         Lilies and Dust has a really strong storyline that was very well told by Death.  Death was not a pushy game master.  She assisted when prompted and pretty much waited for us to interact with her.
We utterly enjoyed our time at Lilies & Dust.  The space was incredible and the puzzles were really fun to solve.  But by far the best element was the interaction with our actor. 

As always, the best measure of a great room was whether my team enjoyed it.  We absolutely did – it was a fantastic pop-up, interactive experience.

Where:                        The Rockery, 47 George Street, Sydney

Duration:                     75 minutes

Themes:                      1 theme

Cost:                           Price:                           $82 per team

Overall Rating:            So. Much. Fun.

More details:     

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