My first “Immersive Theatre” experience happened a couple years ago in a production that had me running around downtown. I was an audience of one with a cast of at least 10 actors stationed throughout the core. I was an active participant in a storyline that was both physically and mentally exciting. I was given instructions to meet with “strangers” (actors). I was guided through alleyways, wandered galleries looking and listening for clues and at one point I danced with a woman in the middle of the  streets of Kensington Market with everyone watching. It was absolutely outside my comfort zone but I was “all in” to take in the experience and I  had stories to tell for months afterwards.  That experience had me curious to explore more immersive theatre.

The latest is here and it takes place inside a video rental shop at Bathurst and Bloor Street West. The Tape Escape, created by Vanessa Smythe, Mitchel Chusman and Nick Bottomly with theatre company Outside the March, is considered a “love letter” to the lost art of browsing. You can choose from three different scenarios aka “in-store rentals” to experience with a multitude of outcomes as you step back to the 1990s for an hour of fun and problem solving.The location is where the iconic video rental store Queen Video once stood (on Bloor just about a two blocks east of Bathurst). It would be easy think it was still a full functioning shop.  The storefront includes a space to play video games and the walls are filled with video cases. Behind the wall is where the game begins. Each session has space for up to 8 players (strongly advice to book ahead online). You’ll find yourself scouring through the 5000+ VHS tapes in search of clues. Think of it more like a mini version of Amazing Race. Together with your teammates you need to solve the riddles in order to get the next clue and move on with the escape game. Listen carefully. Keep your eyes open. Some of the clues are tricky! At times, you’ll find yourself deep in the collections – try not to get too lost as you reminisce seeing all the titles. But don’t worry, you won’t be left alone. A video store staff member is close by in case you get stuck. Remember that each puzzle/riddle has a time limit for you to complete and once you’ve run out of time, you can’t rewind.

I won’t give anything away! This is a fun experience even if it’s just to travel back in time to visit the video store! Go alone or go with friends. You’ll be in teams as you solve challenges and gather clues.

The three themes and their descriptions:

Love Without Late Fees: More than just a video store, The Tape Escape runs its own matchmaking service—pairing up movie-lovers in its customer date-a-base. Two single renters jumpstart their relationship by sharing six video rentals. Because, as we all know, watching the right movie, at the right time, can ensure that ride off into the sunset. So many tapes to choose from, so many possible futures. Can you rent your way to happily ever after?

A Grown-up’s Guide to Flying: Every year Gene’s older brother Kelly plans a special birthday treasure hunt for her in The Tape Escape – her favourite place. But Gene’s experience of the world is changing, and her 9th birthday calls for a different kind of present. Created in collaboration with blind artist Devon Healey, this rental experience explores how we experience movies – and each other – when our sighted experience changes.

Yesterday’s Heroes: Some say that physical objects have a better memory than a hard drive. Buried somewhere inside the walls of The Tape Escape, a whispering voice calls out to you again and again. Venture on a quest through shelves overflowing with stories, to find the one that can’t be recorded over. There’s something deeper in store, but you might have to uproot the past to unlock the future.

So, how did we do? We signed up for “Love Without Late Fees” and unfortunately we were not successful in solving all the challenges so, the outcome wasn’t what our team had hoped for and there were definitely a few surprises along the way.

Each experience lasts an hour. For full details, dates and availability visit www.outsidethemarch.ca