The Unmarked Door is undefinable – each experience changing form, genre, and scope with the agility of a ballet dancer. From the romantically warm Heart of Winter to the intimate paranormal tale of The Witnessing, this team is now taking on Crimson Cabaret, a spy caper set in a Berlin nightclub. Audiences will assume their own role, intermingle with other agents, and try to uncover the secrets of the Cabaret – all while enjoying a curated cocktail menu and enough live music to make you feel as if it truly was 1963.
Immersed had a chance to sit down with Rolfe Kent (composer; Dexter, Legally Blonde, Sideways) to discuss the Crimson Cabaret. Read on to learn more – but make haste, because this interview will self-destruct in 7 minutes.
In your own words, what is Crimson Cabaret?
It’s a lavish spy experience set in a Berlin nightclub during the Cold War. There’s a cabaret show going on the whole time, but also the place is full of KGB, Stasi, MI6, and the CIA with their own missions, and you are one of them.
Crimson Cabaret has a widely different tone, scale, and feel than The Unmarked Door’s previous experiences like The Witnessing and Heart of Winter. Is this a shift in the creative team or just a desire to do something different?
It seems we are always doing something different, exploring different worlds that excite us. The common thread is detailed, curated use of sound – and in this show we have a live, 5-piece band playing original music through the night, which really adds something amazing to the chemistry of the evening.
Who is the creative team behind Crimson Cabaret?
It is written by Lola Kelly and Rolfe Kent, and directed by Lola Kelly. Production design is by Madeleine Maloy. Music by is Rolfe Kent with Savannah Wheeler.
What inspired your team to create this experience? Are there any specific films, novels, comics, or other immersives that influenced you?
The opening titles of ’60s spy thrillers were so glamorous and dangerous, and I (Rolfe) wanted to get lost in them, and immersed in that heady world. The Cold War made stories simple, in that the sides seemed starkly clear – the Soviet bloc seemed so menacing and grim – perfect for heroic endeavor; the music was enchanting (John Barry’s music for the Harry Palmer and James Bond films) and darkly sexy, and those title sequences were full of intrigue, menace, color and sex. What else is like that – a nightclub! So it got me thinking that a nightclub environment might work for capturing and sharing this intoxicating atmosphere.
Cold War Era experiences are starting to become popular in the immersive genre. Having guests assume the role of a spy and uncover conspiracies is wonderfully fun, interactive, and engaging. How do you plan to truly have guests become spies? What can guests expect when walking through the door?
It starts before you arrive – there’s documents to review from various agencies about things afoot in the international scene, clues that point to a meeting in Berlin. So, by the time you arrive you may already feel quite informed, have your cover ID card filled out, and be ready to make contact with your control. You’ll be briefed, given your initial mission to make contact, and you enter the club. From there it’s up to you to make choices – watch the show and observe, or take a more active role in engaging with your connections, solving the riddles of what is going on, and trying not to fall foul of the opposition.
As the experience occurs in a 1963 German nightclub, guests can partake in drinks, a show, or engage with characters. Are there options for those who are more passive and for those who are more active in their immersive roles?
Yes. Your adventure is up to you, and the stage show is pretty mesmerizing so just watching that is itself a great night. But you can also engage with the characters and take on missions.
What are your favorite aspects of Crimson Cabaret?
The energy of the show is so enveloping that it’s my favorite thing about it. The combination of live music, performance (we have superb aerialist, burlesque, and dance acts), and simultaneously immersive intrigue from this extraordinary and fascinating company of players, is really what makes this fun for me. Lola did an incredible job coordinating all the elements that are all happening at the same time.
Will guests be able to uncover the full narrative on their own or will it require sharing of stories? Will they have agency in the narrative to have an impact? Will there be multiple tracks to come back for? Can they experience everything in one night?
Return visits will definitely reveal more. There’s a lot going on, and shared stories may enable you to get the bigger picture. Guests do get involved in aspects of the narrative, and of course are free to find their own vantage points and encounters.
In terms of documents and hidden clues, will there be an emphasis on puzzles, or is the experience more character interaction and performance focused?
The evening goes through different phases, some in which encounters and interactions are key, others when puzzle solving is essential, and guests can lean in whichever direction they prefer. Or opt to be an observer and see what they can discern.
With a wonderful nightclub as your backdrop, how have you transformed the location you’re using to tell your story and evoke your themes?
The environment has been painstakingly transformed by the vision of Madeleine Maloy who has an incredible gift for immersive adventure spaces. She has created surprises in building this which are brilliant and delightful, and I can’t say more without breaking the surprise.
With Rolfe Kent on board, can you tell us about how music is incorporated? Is there any new music incorporated? Will we hear it sung live?
There is a lot of live music, and much sung live, including Savannah Wheeler’s amazing opening song “Welcome to the Crimson Cabaret,” as well as some cheeky Kent songs that evoke the 1960s, John Barry, and a bit of a Kurt Weil feel too.
A strong selling point is always the craft cocktails designed for the experience. Can you tell us about some of these drinks – maybe your favorite?
There is a secret code woven into the drink menu, so unfortunately we can’t reveal anything without giving away too much. I can tell you that the bar remains open after the show (a Punchdrunk habit that we have always admired) so there is longer to get to the bottom of this mystery, and it really makes for a satisfying night to be able to mingle amongst the “opposition” with a cocktail.
What do you want people to walk away from your experience with? What do you want them to feel or learn?
We hope they are thrilled, made discoveries, feel very entertained, and find it full of memorable moments and encounters. It should be a great and unusual night out. And yet, with espionage, there is always the nagging doubt – was something else going on all along…?
Crimson Cabaret opens December 5th and runs through December 29th; tickets available HERE. Find out more information on Crimson Cabaret, Rolfe Kent and The Unmarked Door on their website, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook page. Check out our Event Guide for more immersive events throughout the year.
Photography by Destiny Petrel.