We’re transported to a legendary penitentiary for a night behind bars
So, how d’ya kill him?’ I’m asked. Thinking on your feet after three gin cocktails is tricky at the best of times. It’s even trickier when you’re in a prison cell, wearing an orange jumpsuit, with a guard breathing down your neck. But, naturally, that’s the situation myself and my ‘cellmate’ have found ourselves in as we try out the latest immersive pop-up to get London’s scenesters talking.
This Alcatraz-inspired bar has drawn mixed reactions, but Inventive Productions founder Sam Shearman isn’t worried. ‘I just care about all the amazing feedback we’ve been getting.
People have made films and TV shows about it. Why can’t I open a bar?’
For Sam, however, the Alcatraz theme is secondary to his main aim. ‘I wanted to change the bar experience, from ordering off a set menu to allowing the punters to actually specify exactly what they want from a cocktail.’
Our main aim? To smuggle in our own liquor of choice. After being searched at the entrance, we’re ordered to put on those jumpsuits, given our prison numbers (from now on I’m referred to as ‘#1415’) and shown to our cell. This being an immersive experience, there’s plenty of interaction. ‘Warden White’ is the Bible-bashing rule enforcer while the bartenders pose as fellow convicts, who smuggle our gin from our cell to the bar behind the visitor screens. The cocktails are also delicious, and the garnishes pretty; our favourite incorporated pineapple juice, gin, maple syrup and passion-fruit purée.
The attention to detail is impressive. In our cell, we find a letter dated ‘1955’ that starts, ‘My dear Johnny’, and there’s even a vintage postcard from Alcatraz itself. A corner toilet (‘Please don’t use it’) acts as a chair, and the cells are named after characters from TV show Orange Is the New Black. There’s even a soundtrack of old inmate songs and prison noises that provides atmospheric background ambience. Anything to drown out those screams from ‘The Hole’.
Make sure the staff you hire are prepared to think on their feet. Staying in character under pressure is one of the most important parts of keeping immersive events out of ‘amateur’ territory
Theming, actors + music
We review another immersive experience at The Postal Museum here.
Photos Matt Martin Photography