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Review - Phantom Peak: A big serving of immersive quirkiness (with a side of Platypus)


I recently found myself uttering the phrase that inevitably escapes any Londoner’s mouth at some point in their life: there’s nothing to do. And whilst this isn’t true, of course, once you’ve exhausted the available galleries, museums, restaurants, and theatre productions in the London art scene, it truly does feel like there’s little else left to do on the weekend.


Enter: Phantom Peak. An experience that is somehow all these things at once, but also unequivocally unique. Feeling like a fresh breath of whimsical air, Phantom Peak marries together several different elements of your favourite weekend pastimes, all of which is underscored by their adorable mascot: the platypus. It is an immersive theatre experience as the title would suggest, but it is also a puzzling, activity ridden, character-filled journey. It isn’t just one thing, but a myriad of many mish-mashed together in one wonderful cacophony of fun. There truly is no better word to explain it. Despite this, I will now use many more words to try do so.


Nestled in the streets of Canada Waters, I entered Phantom Peak blind, as I believe one should do when visiting an immersive theatre production, and mostly unsure of what to expect. What I was met with was a fully-fledged fictional town that felt like stepping into an open-world video game, with detail akin to that of the old-timey cowboy landscape of games such as Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption. 


The experience consists of two worlds, the elusive “Old Town” with its old-timey saloon, a creepy undertaker’s, a crashed blimp, and my favourite, the mysterious “miramaze” nestled in between various other shops, bars, and arcade areas. Outside is the beautiful Venetian-esque boardwalk, traced by a canal that is surrounded by even more spaces to be explored. Compared to the mostly internal world of immersive experiences, such as Peaky Blinders: The Rise, the diversity in locations makes the experience all the richer. If you are lucky enough to visit on a sunny day as I was, this area of the experience is particularly enjoyable if you wish to grab an ice-cream and take a break from the puzzle-solving.



Because this is what the functional purpose of this experience is: solve puzzles to unlock the mysteries of this cowboy-steampunk style town. Phantom Peak refreshingly does not shy away from its guests using their phones, and instead uses the obsession many of us 21st century folk have with checking our notifications to its advantage by making technology central to the narrative. Using the website to follow clues and dash madly around the town to decipher scraps of information that the towns people feed you. The juxtaposing elements of this steampunk-western town injected with the technological elements of both phones and the JONACO robots are just off-beat enough to match the quirky atmosphere that Phantom Peak seems to be all about.


Anyone expecting an escape-room type of experience may be disappointed, but for me what Phantom Peak delivers is so much richer. Though the puzzles are perhaps on the simpler side at times (though I have, admittedly, only completed 1 of the 16 that they offer currently), to me it felt that the puzzles weren’t what was most important. Instead, the storyline and the care that has been taken to make it so detailed, so three dimensional past the point of merely mechanical, is at the heart of what makes it so, once again, fun. The storyline that the experience follows could be more compared to that of a choose-your-own story book than anything else: it has a central, cohesive narrative structure that it follows, yet allows the guest an amount of autonomy whilst you explore the world.


As is central to any story in a theatre production, something must be said about the characters at Phantom Peak. As someone who is abrasively aware of one-dimensional characterisation (I have my literature degree to thank for that), the characters in Phantom Peak are anything but. Often witty and undeniably charismatic, each character I encountered throughout the western town felt lived rather than acted. No lines felt forced or rehearsed, and you get the feeling that the actors aren’t just there to deliver clues or pieces of pre-determined dialogue but instead are the moving parts driving this narrative forward. The level of commitment that each actor has to their quirky characters is charming: you can tell that not only are the visitors around you having fun, but so are the actors around you.


For those who are more introverted, the interactions never feel forced upon you and instead are natural and friendly. I spoke with an undertaker about his recently deceased mother (whose skeleton lay propped up on the floor beside us, a bow rather jauntily placed on her skull), chatted with a local about his robot dating life and participated in a rather unusual Zumba class with a scientist attempting to place his consciousness into a robot. A wide variety of exchanges, to say the least.



Great immersive theatre is just that: immersive. And this is what I feel Phantom Peak does best. There are too many elements for me to comment on before this review will need a thesis statement attached to its start; I have not mentioned the fantastic food, nor the Platypus parade, not even the conga line or the limbo contest that I had with the drunk priest. Truthfully, limiting myself to a number of words that seems readable has been difficult. However, the areas that Phantom Peak excels in above other immersive theatre productions that I have had the pleasure to see is the care that it takes to create a fully-fledged, interesting narrative. 


And if my high praises just aren’t enough: I was accompanied by two friends, both of whom had never been to an immersive experience before Phantom Peak. Just hours after leaving, both were looking at booking tickets to return the next weekend. If that isn’t high enough praise, then I don’t know what is.


Again, there is too much to say about Phantom Peak than could fit in just one review. It is the kind of experience that needs multiple visits, each with their own accompanying review to record the sheer volume of things to see, activities to do and actors to interact with. And whilst a several-part series of reviews may be fun for me to write, Phantom Peak is something to be experienced, not read about. I could not be so bold as to claim that in my first visit I saw all there is to see, or spotted every painstaking detail that the experience holds. Perhaps on my second, third or my undoubtful fourth visit I will be more of an expert. 


There is an intangible quality to Phantom Peak that makes it so enjoyable, and why many of the guests I was joined by were repeat visitors. I too will be returning later this month with a cowboy hat atop my head and high expectations for my next visit, and I would recommend anyone else do the same (cowboy hat optional).


Phantom Peak

Running now until 28 June (stay tuned for news about an extension)

Canada St, Surrey Quays Rd, SE16 7PJ


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