Illicit Signals Bletchley
Venue: CRYPT, Bethnal Green 
Cast: Timothy Styles, Amelia Stephenson, Al Barclay, Beth Jay, Gabriel Burns, Sandy Murray, Christopher Styles and Jaya Baldwin

Step back in time to 1940s Bletchley Park, a world of espionage, code breaking and secrets. It was here that men and women, both young and old, cracked German codes and unveiled war winning secrets, but these men and women kept secrets of their own, both from each other and the public. 

Illicit Signals Bletchley combines historical drama with rewarding codebreaking to create a fun, stimulating evening.

From the second you enter the gates of Bletchley Park, you're transported back in time. No longer are we in modern day Bethnal Green, but somewhere far more secretive and it's the year 1941. Illicit Signals Bletchley is a piece of immersive theatre, and is a co-production brought to us by Parabolic Theatre and Mechanical Thought.

We are greeted outside the venue by a well-dressed man with a pipe and bowler hat. He tells us briefly about the work we'll be doing at Bletchley Park, and lets us into the CRYPT in small groups. While you're waiting for the production to start, the atmosphere and setting is perfectly reflective on the time period. From the music, to the slightly damp minimalist setting - even the bartender was in character, which really helped to set the atmosphere for me.

Before we begin, you're asked to sign a Secret Act form to ensure that there is no filming, or photography - and the secrets of the piece are kept hidden. As the show is about code breaking and deciphering, it was touches like that which made the piece seem more authentic

One of the things I love most about immersive theatre is having choice. You decide where you want to go, and who you want to follow. Not only does this make the show more exciting, but it also means you can revisit the show and experience a completely different version. I was led into a hut (there are three huts within the venue) and was introduced to Dilly Knox. Dilly is completely eccentric, and he just so happened to be my favourite cast member - he was absolutely fantastic. It was here where we were taught to decipher and encipher by Mavis Lever (Beth Jay) and Dilly (Al Barclay). 

The cast are happy to spend as much time as you need teaching you the basics, before you're split into even smaller groups and set your very own missions. You must crack the code to move into the next hut. In the next part of the show, the story is starting to piece together and without any spoilers, homosexuality still being a crime in the 1940's plays a pivotal part. It's a story that left me choked, and I know many other guests felt the same.

We're slowly introduced to the rest of the cast, and all of their own secrets start to be uncovered by Maj. Charles Richards (Christopher Styles), who begins to interrogate them. At the end of the show, members of the audience are given envelopes by the cast members to read out. It's here that I learned that all the characters in this production are based on real people from the second world war; which made the piece even more profound.

From the make up, costumes, set design, venue - it all portrayed the time era brilliantly. Not once did they break character; which must have been particularly hard for Beth Jay, who plays Mavis Lever. One of the guests took audience participation to a new level; and as a fellow audience member, it was absolutely fantastic to watch! That's one of the aspects I love most about immersive theatre - you really have no idea what's going to happen next.

Whether you want to learn more about the basics of coding, an insight into the second world war, or simply enjoy being immersed into a fantastically cast piece of theatre - then Illicit Signals Bletchley is the show for you.

You can buy tickets to Illicit Signals Bletchley at CRYPT, Bethnal Green until 28th May, here.

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