Curse of Pharaoh's Tomb 1.30pm till 25th August Spotlites @ The Merchants' Hall
Code breaking. Stick fighting. Whip cracking. A stolen amulet. The 18th Dynasty. Mummification. A man who looks suspiciously like Indiana Jones but is not Indiana Jones.
On paper – or its digital equivalent – Curse of Pharaoh’s Tomb sounds like great fun. And for an hour on stage, it is: a rip-roaring jaunt that’s stuffed with explosions, riddles and canopic jars galore.
Then there’s a five-minute intermission. Then Curse of Pharaoh’s Tomb returns. For another 45 minutes. For those too lazy to do the math, that’s one hour and 45 minutes of adventure – in a show that’s pitched at five-year-olds. By the time the baddies have got their comeuppance, several more dynasties have passed and this reviewer has sucked his brain out his nose using a hook to numb the tedium.
Enacted by the same cast as Rapunzel – May the Force Be With You!, Curse of Pharaoh’s Tomb eschews lightsabers for whips and slingshots. The action begins in ancient Egypt, with Queen Nefertiti condemning Tutankhamen to an early grave for his crimes. In the Valley of the Kings, of course, death is only the beginning.
Fast forward 3,000 years and our intrepid archaeologist – let’s call him Indy – is on a quest to discover the Pharaoh’s tomb. The plot is as haphazard as Rapunzel – May the Force Be With You!, but it’s delivered with more conviction, even if it’s unclear what we’re rooting for other than the ultimate triumph of good over evil.
One hour ought to be more than enough time for Indy to get the amulet, save the girl and quell the Pharaoh’s curse. Sadly it’s not.
Around 40 minutes into the show, I lost track of the plot, which until that point had revolved around Bad Guy Waves Pistol, Indy Nullifies Threat. There’s nothing wrong with that premise – it was enough to fill four Indiana Jones films after all. Entertaining a capricious audience for almost two hours, however, requires more than gunshots and Machiavellian cackles.
What starts out as a Raiders of the Lost Ark romp ends as a Kingdom of the Crystal Skull whimper, the audience interaction and atmospheric effects negated by the pointless final 45.
Thankfully, there’s a simple workaround: Just show up for the first hour and then leave during the interval. The only thing you’ll miss is a numb bum.