CAN YOU ESCAPE AIRLIE BEACH?

 

REVIEW: ESCAPECQ

1a/400 Shute Harbour Road
Airlie Beach
PHONE: 48293411

Ever been to an Escape room before? I hadn’t, and I hadn’t even heard of one until a few months ago when I found out one was being built in Airlie Beach and now that I’ve seen it, I can’t wait to go back a second time!

The premise is so cool; you are locked inside the first room of a place called Addington Manor, and are left to your own devices to find your way out while a clock ticks nearby, giving you an hour to beat the game in order to win, or fail. 

I’ll admit that when I first heard about the idea, I got a little anxious because I’m known to get claustrophobic when I’m locked in anywhere (regardless of the size of the space it’s a mental thing) and because I thought I’d spend the whole time freaking out about the pressure that I was under, but to my shock, I was one hundred percent comfortable the whole time and I had an absolute ball. 

Getting into the manor is easy- teams ranging from 2-6 players are given the safety instructions, the rules and some tips and then, your game master reads the scenario’s back story to you which in this case concerned a haunted old house with a bad reputation, firstly because the original owner, old man Addington went mad after his wife died and killed his daughter, and then because a curious group of kids went in there during the 80’s and couldn’t get out. That was until, the last one of them managed to cast a spell, which you must now recreate if you too want to get out alive. 

Then, once you’re ready to go, your sent into the room, the door locks behind you and then tick tock- you’re racing the clock!

I was absolutely gobsmacked by how detailed and atmospheric Addington Manor was on the inside giving how unassuming it is on the outside, but once that door locks behind you you’re in another world entirely. I shouldn’t have been surprised because the creator of Escapecq has a heavy theatrical background and it shows, all right, because he’s created a bit of a spooky time portal in the middle of one of the sunniest, happiest places in the world. Every detail was beautifully presented and well thought out but even though the space is small and dimly lit in order to keep the atmosphere of the scenario intact, our team of five grown adults found it easy to get around anyway without worrying about getting under one another’s feet or knocking things over.

It’s going to be difficult to explain why you should go to Escapecq or what exactly goes on in there without giving any of the game away, but I know a lot of people are curious about how it works so as my friend Dave said, it’s very much like being in one of those video games that have a heavy focus on exploring the area you’re in in order to get to the next. I thought you’d be given one clue to begin with and would then have to follow a specific formula but it’s not like that at all. Instead, you’re locked in the room and then are encouraged to ransack it, without having any idea about what you’re looking for or why, and even when you work one clue out, it might not necessarily work out for you or make any sense until you’ve figured out a different part of the puzzle, which is why it is such a great team activity because everyone can contribute to solving the problem simultaneously. 

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You’re not abandoned in there either. The attendant out front is able to monitor you the whole time, so if you get stumped or scared or you hit a wall, they are able to offer extra hints via the AV display in the room itself, which my group needed (I suspect) a lot in the beginning because we were too excited to focus. Atmospheric sound effects are played the whole time to keep that haunted house feel going, but if you are in dire straits, a wolf will howl, which is your cue to look to the monitor for an extra hint. Really, it’s exactly like being in a haunted house ride, only more authentic feeling than any I’ve ever been in before. 

The clues and puzzles are all tied in with the original storyline in a very clever way, and come in all sorts of forms too so everyone gets a chance to contribute to solving the problem regardless on what their strength is, whether they be someone that’s into riddles, or decoding or even if they just have a knack for problem solving or are just there to offer encouragement and enjoy the ride. For instance, you might need to get into a drawer that’s locked with one kind of lock, but in order to open that lock you have to decode an audio visual clue, or trigger one of the mechanisms in the room that leads you to the next step, and to my delight, that next step often involved advancing into another room that you wouldn’t have guessed was there until everything all clicks into place. It’s a lot of fun and a bit chaotic to begin with, but as you start to get a feel for how the game works, you have the chance to pace yourself and get some organization going. 

Is it complicated? Definitely so I’d suggest having a strong coffee before going in (At one point I heard myself hysterically exclaiming: ‘There’s no DIAMOND symbol in Morse Code!!!)  but it’s complicated in a way that’s fun and it doesn’t get tedious at all, and though that racing clock keeps the pressure on to complete the scenario in under an hour, the games have ranged between forty minutes and seventy-five, so even if you don’t make it in time, you do get the chance to make it through anyway. Also, the company keeps track of those who get through the fastest so if you’re the competitive type, the incentive to escape as quickly as possible greets you the second you enter the building and see the placard advertising the record to beat. 

There wasn’t anything about the experience that I didn’t enjoy, but the very best part for me, was the way everything was so automated. There were sensors and triggers lying in wait everywhere, setting off a response in something else, so it sort of reminded me of being in one of the fictional playing fields in The Hunger Games only instead of it all being controlled as you go, it’s all been set up so every lock, every candle flicker, every AV prompt is self-activated. Honestly I was in awe of how everything worked because of how fluid it was, and although the second Escape Room isn’t due to be completed until next week, the owner Victor Scott gave us a sneak peak at the new scenario and although it’s a similar concept, all of the puzzles are different again and relate back to the new storyline, and I know that if it had been ready to go today we would have all begged to have a crack at the other immediately after we’d finished the first.

We all know there’s a lot of stuff to do in Airlie, but if you’re up there any not in a mood to get wet or drunk sometimes, it can feel a bit limited which is exactly why the escape room is an awesome idea, especially now that the weather’s cooling down a bit. My group and I drove up there just to play the game and had to head back to Mackay immediately afterwards, but it was totally worth it and I won’t hesitate to do I again as soon as the next game is ready so I heartily encourage all locals to do as I do- get yourself up there as soon as you can because there’s no adventure quite like it anywhere near here. Not only is this a great way to amuse tourists that are looking for something a bit different to do, but it’s an entertaining way for locals to have fun too, in addition to being a great team-building idea for secondary students and work groups or an inventive way to celebrate a special occasion, like with a hen’s Night, birthday or anniversary etc. In fact, the company will actually help you theme the room to compliment your event if you give them enough notice. 

Escapecq’s office is open for bookings between Tuesdays and Saturdays from 11am to 5pm, but the games themselves run every day of the year except for Christmas Day. Booking in advance is heavily recommended if your plans are time-sensitive, but they will take walk ins if the room is available. Right now the only room available is ‘Addington Manor’ but the new scenario, ‘The Stitch Up’ will be open as of this Thursday May 17th, and they’re taking bookings for it now for all people aged 14+. It’s recommended to have at least two people who speak English in the room with a party, but the attendant will try to help overcome any language barriers if such are present anyway.

Player’s rates vary according to the size of the party, starting at $44 for 2 people, and going as low as $30 each for 6, so like their page on Facebook or call: 48293411 to make a booking!

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A Dreamy Evening : A Review Of Timber Dreams, Joel Bow Productions.

Last night I had the pleasure of seeing Timber Dreams, the cabaret review masterminded by Joel Bow, of Joel Bow Productions, as a part of the Anywhere Mackay Festival.

The concept was simple and seamless; stage a performance of some kind in a random location- anywhere but within a theatre- and bring on the entertainment. Of course even when Joel Bow does something simple he sets the bar at extraordinary, so he enlisted not only two very talented local songbirds, Kyra Geoghegan and Molly Rossetto to take up the challenge, but he got them and pianist Sarah Rosekrans to accompany the one, the only Kurt Phelan, whom a lot of lucky or theatre-savvy folks will recognize as Johnny Castle from the Australian production of Dirty Dancing. Together, this very talented quartet performed a variety of numbers from a few different genres over two sets in the highly original setting of Porters Timber Stockyard.
I will set the scene for you now- stacks of treated timber shelved all the way to the monstrously high ceiling, soft candlelight and colored mood lighting, heavenly incense wafting through the door to mix with that lovely timber smell (my husband works in a timber yard so that scent is borderline erotic to me now, lol) an intimate but eager audience scattered around the front of a very simple, vintage-inspired stage and two very gracious hosts greeting you at the door and making sure you’re not wanting for a refreshment or five. Everything Joel does is elegant, but Timber Dreams managed to be mysterious and cozy with a hint of rustic, and I guess that is one of the many upsides to the Anywhere Festival– it takes people out of one comfort zone but then introduces them to a new and very unexpected one. With the right eye, anywhere can be romantic, and Joel Bow has that eye, all right.

The performers were beautifully dressed in gorgeous evening wear too, and they absolutely sparkled under the lights- not just on the outside but from within. Molly Rossetto is still pretty fresh out of the Conservatorium Of Music, but she has the stage presence of someone who has been doing what she has done for decades. I’m currently in the production of MMCP’s Wicked with her and have seen her perform in quite a few things over the last year, and I’ve noticed that she tends to take on a lot of very dark or intense roles, which suits her perfectly because she has an incredibly strong voice and a very high range, which is hard to find. However, I saw a lighter side of Molly last night as well and I was delighted by that. She had quite a few songs and they were incredibly catchy and cheeky, so much so that I ended up Googling them earlier this evening because I was immediately a fan, and I don’t think I was the only one absolutely enamored by the tune: ‘A Contemporary Musical Theatre Song,’ which resonates like a cheeky in-joke for Thespians and theatre goers. Molly’s voice is a big one, not unlike Adele’s, and I really enjoy how effortless she makes singing a string of big-belt numbers look. Though younger and fresher onto the the scene than Kurt Phelan and Kyra Geoghegan, Molly definitely held her own last night and then some, and I think it’s safe to say that we can expect to see a lot more of her around the region in the future.

Kyra Geoghegan is a very seasoned local performer, and one that I have had the pleasure of seeing with and woking with many times before, but I was absolutely dazzled by her rendition of ‘How Bout A Dance?’ from the musical, Bonnie & Clyde last night. It was pitch perfect and luxurious, and proved why she so often gets cast as the lead in local productions: the girl just has that quality that puts asses in seats. She has an incredible Mezzo-Soprano sound and a belt that never fails to hit the back of every room, but more than that, she has this natural gift for connecting with the songs that she’s singing and then forcing that connection on the audience too. Seriously, I don’t get how she manages to make even eyebrow movements hypnotic but she does- when Kyra’s singing, one cannot take their eyes off her face and with the right song, she’ll move you to tears. I’ve always said that Miss Geoghegan is wasted on Mackay because I know she could move people anywhere, but truth be told, I’m very grateful for the fact that she’s chosen to not only stick around Mackay to dazzle audiences, but to endeavor to pass on her many gifts to her students at Aspire Performing Arts.

And then there was Kurt Phelan, and I don’t think even I have enough words to sum up exactly what seeing a Kurt Phelan performance is like, but I’ve seen him perform three times now, and I know that I will continue to drop whatever it is I’m doing in the future to see him again. Kurt is a top shelf singer and there’s absolutely no denying that, but he is is a performer in every sense of the word and so there is never a dull moment or a lull when he’s around. If you haven’t seen one of his shows yet, you’re missing a real treat, because he knows how to make you laugh, cry, snort-giggle and drink more, and you don’t see a single drop of effort behind anything he does. The man’s just a natural charmer with exceptional comic timing, and he knows how to string songs together with a few well-worded anecdotes that are delivered in a manner that will move you from tears to laughter without a beat being missed. I enjoyed every single song he sang last night whole-heartedly, but ‘Burn for You’ was the highlight for me, and I’m a big fan of the way he interacts not only with everyone from the production team, to the audience, but the way he draws attention to his fellow performers as well, bringing credit where it’s due. Really, if you haven’t been fortunate enough to catch one of his shows yet, do yourself a favour and follow him on Facebook or Twitter so you known when he graces a Mackay stage next, and ladies, take your husband along as I did but Kurt’s sense of humour is accessible to all kinds- and it wouldn’t hurt for some of his personal style to rub off on ‘em either because the boy from Ayr can wear a suit like no one’s business!

And in the vein of bringing credit where it’s due, I must say that I’ve never seen a musician captivate a room quite the way Sarah Rozekrans does. She chooses to be off stage and often to the right of it but Sarah has as much presence in every performance she does as anyone with a microphone in the spotlight. The way her fingers fly over piano keys is stunning in itself, but like Kyra, she has a way of connecting with the music while inviting others to connect with her. She never misses a note, she always looks stunning and when she’s inviting to jump in and start singing too the audience is always wowed. Her and Kurt have a fantastic chemistry that I noticed during his performance Phelan Groovy in 2014, and I believe, a very similar sense of humour so they’re a delightful combination every single time. As satisfying as the entire show was last night, I have to admit that my favourite moment was hearing the thunderous applause that was all for Sarah because she earned every beat of that.

Timber Dreams was definitely a singular experience, and I can honestly say that there wasn’t a face in the crowd that didn’t look like they were having the time of their life (pun intended like a mother) last night. Like everything that Joel Bow has done so far, and will certainly continue to do, it was an evening of perfect harmony, class and laughter delivered in a way that was seemingly effortless even though I know just how hard the cast, Joel and his crew; Greg Sugden, Tim Philips and Leah Edwards work to deliver such beautiful illusions. Five stars from start to finish guys, thanks for doing everything you do, and so well.