Storyhouse, Chester

To call “Lovestruck” a play or a production would simply be an insult to all those involved because it is so much more than that. *****

Words by Luke Gallagher

The late, great, Pete Shelley, once lamented the immortal lines, “Ever fallen in love with someone you shouldn’t have fallen in love with?”. One night in Chester made these words chime with a more sinister relevance than I would have ever expected. Allow me to explain…

I found myself on a fine July evening venturing over the border to Chester with my friend in tow. This may seem nothing out of the ordinary, however, we were travelling to the Roman city with so many questions about what lay in wait for us when we arrived. I had received a very mysterious invitation to attend a new production called “Lovestruck”. There was very little detail as to what the plot entailed but it looked like we were in for a night of finding romance. As someone who has never attended a singles night or even glanced at a dating app, this was all new territory to me. Not even the tide would take me out so, how could I possibly fit into this? Something seemed slightly askew with this dating event. Something otherworldly. I felt very uneasy and not just because this was a new experience. There was a foreboding presence oozing in the air. I couldn’t shake the feeling that someone, something, was keeping an eye on our every move.

We arrived at the venue, a place I’m all too familiar with as I am a frequent visitor. The Storyhouse, a place where I have spent many a happy night. On this occasion, something was off. The seating to my right upon entering seemed more dimly lit than it usually was. Was I misremembering due to my overwhelming feeling of trepidation? I dismiss this as the shadowy corner in question was where my friend and I were to announce our arrival. After our briefing on some house rules with the lovely and friendly staff at The Storyhouse, we were invited to take seat while the other guests arrived.

There seemed to be a rather larger than life personality flitting between the people assembled. A very elegantly dressed lady with the most alluring presence. She had a slightly gothic element to her attire and when she addressed you, it was as if you were under her spell. It transpired she was one of our two hosts for the evening as her equally enchanting colleague joined her. She too shared this magnetic personality and they had a chemistry that bounced off one another around the room like lightning. They introduced us to Lovestruck, a dating night where we were all sure to find our soul mate. Everyone was encouraged to mingle and share answers to some icebreaker questions like “What would your last meal be?” or “What superpower would you choose?”.  So far, so good. It was nice meeting new people.

All the while, I couldn’t help but notice that there was something not quite right with our hosts when you glanced at them. Their enthusiasm was intense to say the least and it seemed rather ominous. What transpired reaffirmed my belief in trusting your gut instinct.

Just as we were being told how our night of finding true love was going to take shape, everything descended into chaos. A man clad in what seemed like an apocalyptic Indiana Jones attire came charging in, startling us all. He chased away our hosts who had gone from the most bold pair I’d ever seen to shrinking and shrieking violets. They were petrified at the sight of him. He was brandishing a mirror and cloves of garlic. Things just took a turn for the freaky.

Our intruder was Ash and he came from an organisation called “The Resistance”. He was there to save us. Our hosts were not there to play Cupid at all. They were there to get their hands on some dinner! They were part of a huge network of vampires posing as a dating agency that had been operating for years. They were going to take over the world. Not if Ash had anything to do with it.

He quickly assembled us all into teams. My friend and I found ourselves in the company of two wonderful people called Luke and Tania. All of the newly assembled teams were given instructions on how we would take down these creatures. We had to work together in our teams and race through the streets of Chester following clues, solving puzzles and journeying across the city in a race against time to defeat the evil undead.

To call “Lovestruck” a play or a production would simply be an insult to all those involved because it is so much more than that. It is a richly entertaining and a very unique experience that I for one had never witnessed before. I am a huge fan of the works of Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith and their series “Inside No.9”. The horror and humour, twists and turns involved in “Lovestruck” are something that Pemberton and Shearsmith would be most proud of. It is such a well crafted piece and the writing is very clever indeed.

The actors involved were absolutely top-notch quality. They managed to instil such unease with their supernatural performance, I was totally convinced by their incredible talent. That was something that really stayed with me. The experience made you suspend your belief system because they really made you think anything was possible and nobody could be trusted. So good was the performance and the clever way of boosting your paranoia in the throws of the action, I actually made a fool of myself for mistaking members of the public as part of the story, I was that engrossed! That is also a testament to how skilled the actors were.

The puzzles and adversities you faced on the way were tantalising and really got your brain working into overdrive. The use of multiple apps and ways of solving clues was really something to behold. I couldn’t imagine how much time and effort must have gone into orchestrating such a thing as it was incredibly intricate.

I really liked how the way in which “Lovestruck” unfolds puts you in the company of new people to meet. I couldn’t have imagined a better pair than Luke and Tania to face a vampire invasion with! They were really lovely people and it was great to get to know them as we went along.

I came away from “Lovestruck” mightily impressed. I was truly astounded with what I’d just taken part in due to how amazing it had all been put together with such military precision. I would have happily gone straight back to the start and done it all over again. I must give huge congratulations to all the cast, crew, directors, producers and writers. I think you’ve all achieved a very unique and wonderful piece of art that everyone should come and enjoy.

I feel “Lovestruck” works on so many levels. It is perfect for a night out with a difference and it is ideal for a get together with your friends or family for any occasion. It is a thrill ride that will have you laughing, screaming and bamboozled. I can’t wait to see it again.

An experience everyone should have. The easiest five star rating I could give anybody! *****

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Ally Goodman

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