There’s nothing left of the microwave — or even any evidence that it was a microwave — or of the former windscreen that lies smashed to pieces on top of it. The Rage Room looks like an accident scene.
“This was from a couple who came here last night on their first date,” grins Marco Caromba, the founder of the destruction-services provider. “They smashed two TVs, two microwaves and windscreens — and they loved it.”
The couple’s weapon of choice, a sledgehammer, rests in a corner of the floor, which is covered in shattered glass and hunks of metal.
“Yesterday, we had three guys going over a washing machine. Their wives bought them a voucher and they just demolished the washing machine: it was gone in two minutes.”
Caromba opened the Rage Room, which operates from a container in Bryanston, in October last year and has plans to start two more in Cape Town and Durban. It’s billed as a venue to have fun, de-stress and “break things to your heart’s content”.
Caromba is wearing a mask that says, “unbreakable”. With Covid-19, he quips, “we decided to make people unbreakable”.
“The biggest thing for us is that this Rage Room is something different. What we push is that it’s an experience,” he says.
“It’s about letting loose and having fun. Everybody comes out smiling.”
Behind the Rage Room, is Caromba’s Jozi X Adventure Centre, with its inflatable park. It offers, among other activities, mountain boarding, skateboarding, BMX riding and bubble soccer.
The stuntman has long made a living on the alternative sports scene —sand mining on the East Rand’s mine dumps, and starting rap jumping and street luging ventures — but with Covid-19, many of his businesses have been hit hard, he says.
In the US, rage rooms, rage cages and smash rooms are popping up everywhere, but South Africans are a conservative market.
“It will take time. Most people when they start they don’t really know how to go about it: ‘I’ve got this room to break stuff, I don’t know how.’ But once they start, they find their stride, it’s just a good laugh … People last at the most, 20 minutes. It’s not easy as they think to break things.
“We get a lot of friend groups and couples. On occasion, we get someone who has had a break-up and it’s messy and they just need to clear all that anger,” Caromba adds.
“They say they feel better afterwards, and I think it’s just a different way they’ve left that stress behind.”
Almost as a disclaimer, he stresses that destruction therapy is no alternative for professional counselling. “We’re here for entertainment. If you need to see a doctor, go see the doctor and come to us afterwards for fun.”
There are two rooms in the container, which he plans to expand, and numbers are kept low to comply with Covid-19 protocols.
For now, the business operates through word of mouth. “We can’t advertise, because sourcing stock is the biggest problem. In the US, you can buy an old TV for $1. Here we struggle to find stuff and we rely on donations.”
Appliances aren’t built to last as they once were, adds Caromba. “We generally look for big old TVs and microwaves. They don’t break easily and that’s what you want — all those general appliances that we had when we were younger that are a lot stronger than what you get now. A new TV will break in seconds.”