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Monroe & Associates @ Adelaide Fringe Review

Published in Arts News  
I don’t know what hurt more – the bullet to the head that left me in a coma for three months or the hospital bill I got slugged with when I finally woke up.

It might have been easier if I hadn’t, because I was in a bind – I had some powerful enemies and a serious case of amnesia. All that was missing was a broad, but then there was always my faithful secretary Nancy.

You don’t have to talk like a dick from an old pulp magazine when you’re playing ‘Monroe & Associates’, but it’s hard not to get into character as you delve into the mystery surrounding Frankie Monroe. Playing is the right word, because this live-action role-playing game for one only evolves in response to your actions and the result is thoroughly engrossing.

Set in a single room in a converted caravan, a phone on the desk acts as a portal to the outside world and I spent an hour or so unpacking clues and meeting the characters that populate Sunset City. It’s hard to tell what’s central to the mystery and what’s just providing colour, and this is a huge part of the charm of ‘Monroe & Associates’.

The MacGuffins help to flesh out this world and as I met a lawyer in the mould of Shelley Levene, a good-hearted diner waitress and a lonely fisherman, I started to get more and more into to the act. Though I started off playing it straight, each interaction thrust me a little more firmly into the world of Frankie Monroe and soon I was just another actor in the cast.

To give much more away would be to spoil the fun, but ‘Monroe & Associates’ is a genuinely original concept that’s wonderfully executed. The phone allows all of the characters to be voiced by a single games master, which means that they can change with each session to suit the world that you create.

Rather than leading you towards a single conclusion as an escape room would, this is more of an open world; the phone can be used to call Malcolm Turnbull or The Pope, if you like! It’s thoroughly enjoyable throughout, and now that I’ve tried it, I can only hope there are more people working on similar concepts so I can do it again.

★★★★★

'Monroe & Associates' plays The Garage International until 19 March.

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