Sitting alone, in the dark, on a bench in a South London park waiting for a text from my ‘handler’, I felt as though I had found myself at the blunt end of the biggest practical joke since the admin team at the 2017 Oscars switched the winner’s envelopes. Instructed to remain vigilant for any ‘suspicious activity’, it’s fair to say that I was absolutely bricking it! Eventually, however, the rest of my team arrived too and after a brief introduction we did indeed receive instructions from our handler.
This experience really is what you make of it. You are talked through how to come up with an effective false identity and told to construct a back story explaining how you and your team all know each other. The more you throw yourself into this new alias, the more fun you will have… it sounds easy, but you will be surprised how hard it can be to remember your alias’ name in the heat of the moment - I certainly messed it up at least once, ironic since you keep the same Christian name!
Not only does this alias have to have a history, they also have to possess some pretty strong views on immigration and Brexit, all in order to get closer to your targets. I found myself making some very inflammatory claims and statements in a South London pub to people I had never met, all in the attempt to gain some ‘intelligence’. By the end of the evening, I had sympathised with a Luton based Anti-Islamic protester and arranged a meeting the following Saturday with the head of the EDL – not my usual Thursday evening out!
As a piece of theatre, this evening was faultless. I spent the entire evening unable to differentiate between actors, members of the public and fellow guests. If you are someone who feels uncomfortable talking to strangers, is careful what you say, or are uneasy about breaking into fenced compounds behind gymnasia, then perhaps give this a miss. However, if you are the sort of person who reads MI5 biographies and watches Line of Duty thinking ‘I wonder whether I could do that?’, then this is certainly for you! Not your standard trip to the theatre, this experience requires concentration, nous and above all the ability to completely suspend reality for one sensational evening.