Museum’s after-hours event a hit with Brits

If you’ve ever seen Night at the Museum, then you might have an idea of what goes on the last Friday of every month at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London during their “Friday Late” event.

Wild-eyed and overcome with excitement, participants in the adults-only event scramble from one exhibit to another like children running from house to house in search of Twix on Halloween.

Themed “Playgrounds,” last month’s Friday Late event provided a night of interactive games centered on exploring the latest exhibitions after normal museum hours — it was a chance for me to unleash my inner child without feeling self-conscious.

Being a bit competitive and overzealous, I found myself scampering through the halls of the South Kensington Tube Station about two hours before the event in preparation for what lay ahead.

Ignoring the man jamming on his bass and signs pointing to the Science Museum, I somehow navigated my way through without getting sidetracked to the glass doors of the V&A museum, where my friends were patiently waiting for me.

After an hour of scoping out the lay of the land, we decided to break for dinner. Little did my friends and I know, however, that by the time we would get back — still well before start time — the main hall that stood empty just an hour earlier would be overflowing with people. The first rule when attending an event like this is to come early and stay late.

Evaluating the expanding crowds, we grabbed a leaflet with a listing of all the night’s events and earmarked the ones we wanted to go to. With only three and a half hours to cover the entire place, we made a beeline to our first game — Silent Relay.

Created by Berlin Invisible Playground, a group that specializes in making street games and audio adventures especially for Friday Late, Silent Relay offered participants the chance to “become an agent taking part in a carefully orchestrated operation through the depths of the museum,” according to the museum’s website.

By the time we got to the sign-up area, however, a long line was already snaking out the entrance. An overseer warned us it might take 30 more minutes before we got to play.

At 6:45 p.m., we figured we had to strategize if we wanted to make the rounds, so we broke up. Two of my fellow playmates hurried to grab tickets for the other events while I patiently waited for Silent Relay.

They came back with looks of disappointment. Less than half an hour after the event began, the tickets to two of the games had all been distributed. Not to be deterred, we plotted our next plan of action while continuing to wait in line.

When we finally got to the front desk, they informed us that we needed one more person to play. So we grabbed the first lone wolf behind us and invited her to join.

Iryna, dressed in a pantsuit and with her hair in a bun, had just gotten off of work. At 27, she was enjoying her second year of living in London while working her way up the corporate ladder.

After signing waivers and handing over I.D.s, we received an iPod and were ushered into a corner cubicle where two covert operatives christened us with code names — for 15 glorious minutes, I was Agent Buddha.

With a few cryptic directions and an official countdown, we pressed play on our iPods and were off.

Through earphones, a furtive voice prompted me to turn left past the Buddha statue. Guiding me back towards the main entrance, the instructions were quick, forcing me to move through the sculpture gallery at lightning pace.

The overwhelming masses of people and bumping techno music in the background made it difficult to keep up. Surrendering, I went back to the control center, only to find the rest of my gang looking as confused as I felt.

Although we never finished our secret mission, at least we had more time for the next game. With our newest member in tow, we raced to the Raphael room, where our next game was about to start.

Conformer, a trivia and body contortion game, required the addition of yet another player. With only one game down and less than half the night left, we eagerly looked around and recruited Ching, a Taiwanese girl on vacation.

As the clock counted down, we rushed to learn the game, which was a combination of Twister and Trivial Pursuit in the form of a race. After easily grabbing the lead with the correct answer of Washington D.C. (the question asked for the capital of the U.S.), we, Team Truth, won the game.

Rejoicing in a job well done, we were rewarded with the grand prize of an amazing, plastic … nametag.

Mission completed. Agent Buddha, signing off.

Melissa Leu is a junior majoring in print journalism. Her column, “Across the Pond,” runs Mondays.