2 April 2010

Late night fun at the V&A

I love the V&A dearly for so many reasons and so I was not going to miss the opportunity to explore it as part of a game.

"Playgrounds" was the enticing and intriguing title of March's Friday Late where special events are staged at the V&A until 10pm on the last Friday of each month.

The museum is open as usual on these evenings so you can explore and enjoy the exhibits as well as taking part in the events.

We got there promptly, correctly anticipating that the evening would be very popular, and slurped a quick cup of tea and demolished a slice of carrot cake while choosing which events to try and do.

We opted to go for Silent Relay, which was billed as "Be guided by a controller's calm voice in your earpiece to become an agent taking part in a carefully orchestrated operation through the depths of the Museum."

It sounded like fun and it was, though perhaps not quite as intended!

We joined the queue where we learnt that we had to be in teams of four. A friend was on his way so that made it three and we adopted a single lady in the queue and then we had a team, of sorts.

The friend was a little late, mostly because he got lost in the V&A (if you've been there you will not be at all surprised by that) and the lady turned out to be foreign and had problems following the instructions, but surely we could get over that little problem?

We were given an iPod touch each, told our identities for the quest, and started playing our instructions track at the same time. Actually I may have been a second or two early which could have been costly!

We were sent off in different directions and given very precise instructions on which corners to turn and which doors to go through. The pace was relentless, a little like Tank to Neo at the end of The Matrix, and it was immediately clear that this was going to be harder than we thought.

Soon I was travelling down a back staircase that I had not seen before. And that's where the problems started.

One floor down I was meant to pick up an envelope from another agent of which there was no sign. The instructions came thick and fast so I could not linger and I carried on sans envelope. I did meet the next agent on the next floor down but she looked confused as she was expecting to receive an envelope from me. I shrugged and carried on.

I made the next connection too where I met another agent and picked up the video camera that he was carrying. This is where it all went wrong.

I was about two seconds behind plan at this stage and once I had the camera the next instructions had already been delivered and partially forgotten. I took a wrong turning somewhere and spent most of the rest of the mission trying to get to where I was meant to be.

There was no point in doubling back because the fast pace of the mission would not allow me to catch up so I tried to be clever and take short cuts towards where I thought we were headed. The main problems with this were a) I did not know where I was meant to be going, b) I would not know how to get there even if I did and c) because the main part of the V&A is built round a quadrangle there are no short-cuts.

Thanks to luck, not judgement, I did find myself by the Grand Entrance not too long after I was meant to be there and with some quick walking I got back to the base just a few seconds after I was meant to.

That was a very minor victory as I has completely failed to pass on the camera, collect other envelopes, pick-up code words and take the photos of other agents in specified locations that the calm voice in my ear kept instructing me to do. But it was a victory of sorts none the less!

Eventually the three of us (I never saw the other lady again) all made it back to base and we then relaxed by watching rather than participating in some of the other events and exploring some of the exhibitions.

It was a bit shambolic but a lot of fun. April's Friday Late at the V&A is all about quilts and I'm guessing that will be a little more sedate. I'll let you know!

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