You haven't got much time left to play the part of a secret agent in occupied France, read agent Tom's account and then book. He will say zees only once!
As a young enthusiast of the history of the Second World War, I remember seeing those posters of the period with a picture of a glamourous lady surrounded by gossiping chaps and the caption: ‘keep mum, she’s not so dumb’. As a callow ten year old, I puzzled endlessly over the caption – what did it mean? Only finally realising, later into my teenage years, what the implication was: pretty girls aren’t always stupid. A lesson I still remember to this day.
Anyway, this is a long way round of saying a few weeks ago, I trooped down to some of the arches around London Bridge station to try out an immersive experience called ‘Maman Le Mot’ (or ‘mum’s the word’ for the linguistically challenged). The organisers promised to transport me to a 1944 SOE training camp, where I would be put through all sorts of trials to prepare me for a drop into occupied France and a top-secret mission! Oh, and there was a three course dinner thrown in too.
To facilitate the pretence, participants were instructed to dress the part, i.e. as a comedy French person; something I have previously got in trouble for at a stag do. But with a striped t-shirt and a supercilious attitude, I felt ready to assume my alternate identity – Guillaume the boulanger!
After a briefing, aspiring secret agents were instructed to team up, before being despatched to find and complete a series of missions around the WW2 themed bar, complete with saucy Edith Piaf lookalike, maps of occupied Europe and other paraphernalia. In all honesty, I couldn’t really work out this part of the evening, which seemed rather confused, and was content to lounge about drinking Breton cider, while the rest of my group ran about trying to decipher Morse code and quiz the barmen for clues.
Dinner was taken upstairs in a recreation of a French brasserie that also had the authentic air of a Nissen hut. The organisers had even gone as far as arrange for a surly French waitress to complete the look, as she took a huff at my request to recite the evening’s menu. Tres bizarre!
Dinner was taken with the rest of the team, most of whom were strangers in our case, but jolly ones, luckily enough. The food was all very pleasant – terrine de campagne, braised chicken with a creamy sauce and a lemon tart. Nothing to get overly excited about, but that’s not the point of SOE training school in any case.
After the Edith Piaf lookalike had entertained us with spirited renditions of Milord and Padam Padam, it was back downstairs to complete our missions and get ready for the prizes. Miraculously, my team mates had completed enough tasks for us to take a very creditable second place and a we enjoyed a brief moment of glory. That, I thought, would be it for the evening, until my other half volunteered to the prize-giver that I know all the words to the Marseillaise. Guillaume’s last gasp, therefore, was a solo rendition to the assembled secret agents. Zut alors!
The guys running the evening have done a really good job in terms of the WW2 detail and the actors stick to their parts well. I found the whole mission thing a bit confusing, but maybe that was my own stupidity/laziness. Only the barman, who was unable to mix a kir, or indeed know what one was (it was on the menu), struck a bum note, and we went happily off into the evening, singing of glory, revolution and bloody banners.
n.b. The fun finishes on April 1 (no joke), so not long to book in your visit here!