Jeff Wayne’s The War of the Worlds: The Immersive Experience combines Jeff’s Musical Version, immersive theatre, virtual reality, augmented reality, holograms and other cutting edge technology; giving audiences the chance to live through the Martian invasion of 1898.
June is a very exciting month in the world of immersive experiences and virtual reality with the opening of dotdotdot’s production of Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds. Taking the companies existing VR technology that was used during last years Somnai production to some well-known subject matter that is widely revered – last month I got a sneak peek at what was to come thanks to Love Pop Ups London.
dotdotdot have taken over a 22,000 square foot building in the heart of the City of London for this adventure (bit of an odd choice of location in my opinion but very well connected). The entrance bar is large and impressive (and, I believe, open to the public even if you don’t have a ticket for the show) giving a first idea of the attention to detail that has been taken in recreating the world of Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds. There are paintings that change before your eyes, the bar staff are all dressed to theme and there is a giant martian hanging from the ceiling.
After checking in you’re given a coloured wristband to determine which group you’re in, asked to leave all items behind in the cloakroom (free of charge) and advised to take a bank card with you in case you want a drink at the half time bar. (Well worth it as you’ll be there for 20 or so minutes and there’s an exclusive cocktail available in this one that you can’t get in the main bar.) If you’re paying attention to your surroundings you’ll get a visual clue as to when it’s your groups time to enter the experience but don’t worry if you can’t figure it out – someone will scour the bar to make sure that everyone with the required wristband colour is rounded up before beginning.
The world has survived the Mars invasion but in order to ensure that no one ever forgets what really happened the government are giving people the opportunity to travel back in time via the memories of George Herbert and his wife Carrie.
Without giving away the story for those who don’t already know what happens (hey I was one of them before attending) we do get to witness the first martian landing, what happens to the person who discovered it and then go on the run in an attempt to not meet the same fate.
The live action parts of the show are far superior to the VR elements in my opinion (also for full transparency my visit was during previews the week before official opening so it could well be that these issues have been ironed out by now). The first VR section does seem quite redundant though and while it was fun to walk about in this crazy world it wasn’t entirely clear what we were supposed to do – I could hear someone telling us to fire our guns at an alien but we hadn’t been equipped with any! The show manages to end if spectacular fashion with the best VR section of the whole show as you soar through the air, wind in your hair on a hot air balloon witnessing all of the fallen martians.
A really nice touch is the fact that they’ve got some of the actors from the stage version of the musical involved by reprising their roles as either holograms or VR – Tom Brittney as George, Anna-Marie Wayne as his wife Carrie and Carrie Hope Fletcher as Beth. There is also, of course, the wonderful score by Jeff Wayne which is incorporated throughout beautifully.
Despite the technical issues and a few lulls in the action where they were clearly trying to stall us I did really enjoy this experience. Perhaps not knowing the story and what to expect from it worked in my favour in that way. I think for a true WotW fan this show is an absolute must see, although I’d suggest giving them a couple more weeks just to iron everything out.
The show is currently running until the end of August and tickets cost from £49.50.