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The Drop - Swamp Motel’s Most Ambitious Immersive Theatre Experience Yet

Image: Photograph of Swamp Motel co-founders Ollie Jones (left) and Clem Garritty (right)

As the UK and indeed the world starts to emerge from their respective pandemic interventions The Swamp Motel’s latest outing ‘The Drop’ is a welcome and big scale return to immersive experiences.

From the makers of Plymouth Point, The Mermaid’s Tongue and The Kindling Hour, ‘The Drop’ lands in central London but also transports you to a seedy underworld of crime and espionage, all centred around the most expensive book ever made.

Despite happening right in the centre of Britain’s capital Swamp Motel’s theatre background takes you to a world away at the same time - chasing clues, twists and sudden turns that keep you guessing and sometimes mildly panicking.

Co-founders Ollie Jones and Clem Garritty spoke to Run Riot as they endeavour on their most ambitious production to date since starting in 2016 - ‘The Drop’.

Firstly, how does it feel to be doing real life, in person, immersive experiences again?
So exciting. Having sets surrounding you, hiding detail, watching the transformation of a space from shell to fully functioning world, the long nights of tech and testing - it’s so exhausting but so exhilarating once it all comes together.

It seems a lot has gone into this, was it intentional to come back with a bang?
It was intentional to come back and put our mark on an experience. We’ve worked with some great brands doing live events over the years and obviously had a run of well-received online experiences, but we wanted to prove that we could do something special live independently, so we’ve pursued that.

How much of this was inspired by the legendary book ‘The Great Omar’?
Without giving too much away, a good amount of the narrative was inspired by the story of the book, more than the contents of the book itself. The Drop is the marriage of two things, an experience concept we really liked and thought would be interesting and different, and the story of The Great Omar - its creation and disappearance aboard RMS Titanic.

Why was that such a fascinating idea for you to structure the adventure around?
We’ve developed an interest in blurring the boundaries between real world history/events and the narratives we invent. The story of the most expensive book ever made (that might just have been cursed) disappearing aboard a doomed ship seemed too good to pass up.

Image: The Drop, on set.

I wonder how you approach the individual elements, twists and turns that create this experience?
Piece by piece and with a constant consideration of how we tell the story in the most engaging and entertaining way possible. We want to constantly ratchet up the tension and the stakes narratively and to help that we’ve got a hugely talented technical team who have helped make what seemed like outlandish ideas come to life.

Trying not to give anything away but there are visual, audio and physical elements - some that are specific to each person. Does it take a village to run each session?
The backstage crew size is smaller than you might imagine, but it’s just as intense running the show as it is experiencing it. There are a lot of moving parts and some unbelievably small windows of time to re-set scenes between audiences, and when we get into the swing of a show, there are a good number of audience groups being tended to at any one time.

Image: The Drop, on set.

How did you survive the lockdown considering that your work is very physical and present?
We actually made quite a major pivot to online and released a trilogy of online immersive experiences, called Isklander (made up of Plymouth Point, The Mermaid’s Tongue and The Kindling Hour).

Are you planning to incorporate that approach to The Drop?
We are. We’re excited to be working with The Lowry in Salford to produce The Drop Online which will tell the story of The Drop but from a very different perspective. We hope it offers fans of the show a further way to explore it, and will provide an accessible option for those not able to travel to London to experience the live show first hand.

What is it that you hope people will take away from The Drop experience?
We hope they will be entertained! It’s grown into a fairly intense and adrenaline-fuelled experience. If they walk away feeling like their heart rate is up, they’ve had a great time and that we’ve taken a few years off their life then that sounds like a good result!

Image: The Drop, on set.

What makes this different to some of your previous works?
It’s the first time we as Swamp Motel have been able to deliver a live independent project on this scale - or on any scale in fact. As it is a live show we’ve focussed on making it rewarding in all the ways a live show should be. It’s tactile, it’s visually exciting, it surprises your mind and your body.

And an origin question, how did this all start, how did you end up working together with Swamp Motel?
We founded Swamp Motel in 2016 but didn’t do our first full live event until we worked with Dishoom in 2017 on Night at The Bombay Roxy. We were both working in theatre and had spotted that brands were attempting to create live events that leaned heavily on theatre. We thought we’d try and have a crack at that. Dishoom got us off the ground, from there we worked with brands like Verizon Media and Capcom, but it wasn’t until the pandemic forced our hand that we were able to begin creating independently. Now we balance both and are so excited to have our first independent live experience open to audiences.


Swamp Motel: The Drop
Limited run until 27 Feb 2022

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