As hinted in the title, Escape, this is no ordinary standup show. Instead, we’re trapped in an escape room with Lola Stephenson and Jo Griffin – only they’re not Lola and Jo, they’re Lesley and Jackie, very eager escape-room hosts who are tasked with helping us find Lola and Jo. Participants have an hour in which to locate the clues, which they’re told will be presented through a series of sketches.
The idea is a novel one, and to their credit, the duo manage to juggle many separate threads skilfully (the donning of lanyards when they’re inhabiting their escape-room host personas definitely helps clarify things). There’s a great running gag about the fact that Lesley/Lola ends up spoon-feeding the audience the very obscure clues hidden in the sketches. This also cleverly dodges any uncomfortable audience interaction – escape-rooms are notorious for their difficulty, and the couple have correctly recognised that a mid-afternoon show is probably not the best time to get people’s brain cells working overtime.
At one point, the pair acknowledge that the sketches are slightly unfinished, which rings true; although the sketches do get steadily more amusing, capitalising on those late-20s fears of being the only single one at a wedding and living with your more successful sister, but they never seem to carry the show. We find ourselves itching for the return of Lesley and Jackie, because it’s their performances and dynamic which brings the laughs. The two play off each other effortlessly, and there are definitely some good points made about the diverging paths one is faced with as they fully step into adulthood – settling down, or living your best single life? The escalating tension between our two performers isn’t particularly subtle, but ends in a very touching dialogue between the two.
The production is wrapped up beautifully by a twist which had been threaded throughout the show from the start – it showcases the amount of effort and thought that’s gone into this show. Escape does what it aims to – you can hide from the hustle and bustle of the Fringe for an hour, and simply enjoy an escape room (without the effort).