What is Crime Scene Live?
Crime Scene Live is an immersive experience at our beloved Natural History Museum, involving actors and real-life experts, where several hundred paying customers are tasked with the investigation of a double-murder and the theft of a famous gemstone, which have just taken place. This murder mystery game is in part similar to some escape rooms, in part it resembles a treasure hunt or Secret Cinema. The event is being run in collaboration with Wet Picnic, an experimental theatre group.
We had not been aware that there are fully functional forensic laboratories and research centres at the NHM which assist the police in criminal cases. For the evening, these experts volunteered their precious time, very good of them.
From what we understand, the underlying case has always been more or less the same, even though the format changed significantly, with the initial shows being more like immersive theatre, especially when the murderous events would be re-enacted at the end of the evening. Now with the ever-larger number of “detectives” (partially due to the lower frequency of the events) there is no more re-enactment and the focus has shifted a bit away from immersive theatre, which is fine in our book. Nonetheless the actors are all joyfully uber-enthusiastic, at the top of their game, and despite their diminished role, they and the NHM’s eloquent, inspiring, humorous, forensic experts make this evening so special.
Have you always wondered what it is like to be a police detective trying to solve a murder case? Well, we have (I’m a huge fan of “Silent Witness” on the BBC, even though science was not my best subject at school, to be frank), and the NHM gives you a chance to find out what it’s like to be closing in on the trail of a murderer. Without revealing too much, here is what you can expect on the night:
A full evening
The event is very popular and is likely to sell out again on 17 January and 20 March, when it’s being staged again, despite the fact that the tickets sell for a rather steep £50. The experience lasts for an entire evening, from 6:30 to 10:30pm. It is best to arrive on time, so you won’t have to rush and can enjoy your complimentary drink before it all kicks off. If at hand, you can light up your pipe, dress up in your deerstalker and trench, but most importantly dress comfortably (especially if you are coming straight from work like we did). Wear flat shoes – you will be on your feet most of the evening and you’ll be very busy, if you are diligently following all the clues.
A specific assignment
At the outset, you’ll be put into one of many teams of 10 to 15 “detectives”, and each team will be assigned a specific area of the investigation. Our team was focused on blood, finger prints, and the theft of the gemstone. At first we were slightly disappointed not to be more directly involved in the double-murder case, but our worries soon turned out to be unfounded. Your team will receive detailed instructions from a “fellow agent” as well as an envelope containing your badge, a map of the area, a list of potential suspects, and a schedule of your programmed activities.
Then the chief inspector makes his pompous entrance and explains the full picture to all “detectives” present. The details are complicated and multi-layered, so in order to solve the case, it is vital to share information with members of other teams who have been assigned different tasks.
Science is fun
There is a programme of scheduled activities that help you gain the necessary skills. These workshops are being held at different locations within the museum, which is where the map comes in handy. Each activity involves an expert in the respective area. We thoroughly enjoyed these sessions, and chatting with the forensic scientists. It made me realise that science is a lot of fun.
Meeting new people
One of the objectives of the event is to encourage interaction with fellow participants. It is also a lot of fun to see how many different angles there are, for example, to the interpretation of a voice mail message, and the complex motivations that could be driving the perpetrator or perpetrators. Initially there are eight potential suspects, so halfway through the evening, it was quite a relief to find that other players we had met had also narrowed down the suspects to… eight!
The evening is what you make of it, and do not forget to take a break to marvel at the beautiful architecture and design of the Hintze Hall, one of the most beautiful spaces in London. Ironically (it is the Natural History Museum after all, a scientific institution) it was named after 66-year old Sir Michael, the climate-change sceptic billionaire hedge fund manager. Hope the Blue Whale, illuminated in a mysterious red glow, added to the atmosphere.
Did we pin down the murderer and find out who stole the gemstone?
Well… I’ll be honest, we did not contribute as much as some of the other “detectives” during the final team pow-wow, but our team did figure out who stole the gemstone, so all is well, mission accomplished. When the other teams added their findings, the double-murder started to make sense too.
As expected you are not discovering everything yourself or as a small team as you would in an escape room experience. However, we learned so much and it was an enormous amount of fun. That’s a 4.5 out of 5 from us. We might be back with friends.
Looking for more fun experiences? Check out our posts about the official Sherlock Holmes escape room experience The Game Is Now, Alastair Moon’s House at Lock’d, Cambridge Escape Rooms’ Heaven & Hell, our rides on the Thames Rocket and with The London Helicopter, as well as our time segwaying around Leeds Castle in Kent.