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Thursday, July 25, 2024

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Did you know everybody’s favourite Boxing Day board game has been transformed into an immersive experience complete with interactive games, puzzles and token pieces played by actors? David Hutchinson was part of the team at Path Ents behind Monopoly Lifesized and we’ve caught up with him to find out how they did it…

Hey David, where did you get the idea of turning Monopoly into an immersive experience?

My background is in theatre, so when Hasbro approached me about turning their board games into a musical, I felt it was better suited to a live, interactive experience as everyone is so used to playing Monopoly versus watching a show based on it.

I worked up a concept with the wider Path team, aiming to stay true to the game’s iconic moments — a real jail cell, a Pass Go square where you literally grab money, and big houses and hotels that you build brick-by-brick on your property. We have also humanised the tokens by having them played by actors who guide you through the experience.

While Covid was a terrible time for all of us, it did open up new real estate opportunities with so many retailers going online and a brilliant space on Tottenham Court Road became available where Paperchase used to be. Almost three years later, we are still here!

How is it different from playing the game at home?

The biggest difference is you play in a team against other teams. So while we’ve maintained the competitive side, you do have people on your side and many of the challenges rely on teamwork to win.

We also have our amazing bar and restaurant, The Top Hat Bar, where you can celebrate your win with a Monopoly-themed cocktail or dinner.

Without giving too much away, what’s the part of the experience you’re most proud of?

I’m delighted that we’ve managed to reach such a wide audience and we’ve always been absolutely determined to make sure our experience is inclusive and open to all. Monopoly is a pastime enjoyed by families and people worldwide, so we wanted to make sure that our experience appealed to everyone — that’s why we have family sessions on the weekend as well as late-night parties, hen dos and corporate events. We’ve even had a few proposalson the board (happy to report it was a yes!)

In terms of the experience itself, I’m most proud of how unique it is as a concept. There are some amazing immersive theatrical concepts out there, but not many that are so game-orientated with heaps of competitive socialising and theatricality, all based on your favourite board game!

Have you got your eye on turning any other board games into live experiences?
I sure do. We’ve licensed the rights from the same company, Hasbro, for a life-sized version of Cluedo! We haven’t yet announced when we are launching, but you can imagine how much fun we are having creating the concept.

We also launched a Dungeons and Dragons- themed immersive production in New York recently called Dungeons and Dragons: Twenty-Sided Tavern. It’s an interactive, role-play game on a traditional theatrical stage. And of course, how could I forget our Paddington Bear Experience? While this isn’t based on a board game, it’s heavily interactive with lots of games.

After hosting a Eurovision party in the Top Hat restaurant last year, are there any more one-off events coming up?
Our Eurovision watch party was so fun! We loved having the Top Hat transformed into European colours with cheesy pop and ballads blasting out. Coming up, we have a month of Pride celebrations with the launch of our Pride cocktails throughout June alongside bottomless brunches, including on the 29th for Pride in London. We’ll also be showing Wimbledon and the Euros, plus we’re having a big third birthday party in August.

Saving the controversial question for last — what’s your favourite playing piece?

Oh, you are going to get me in trouble here. We have a brilliant, diverse and inclusive company of actors who bring to life our amazing set of tokens brilliantly, day in and day out. They’re really at the heart of our experience. But I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you I have a soft spot for the thimble, who’s called Sarah Pressica Parker!

You can book tickets to try Monopoly Lifesized for yourself now HERE!!

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