Jeff Wayne’s The War of the Worlds Immersive Experience Review

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I really love War of the Worlds, from the shocking radio drama history, to the films, and most recently, the stage show. I went a few months ago to that and was totally blown away. I didn’t know what to expect from it, but the music was top notch as was the acting and the stage design. When I heard that Dot Dot Dot (of Somnai fame) were taking on this stage version, I was psyched! Their blend of VR and live action would be perfect for this story. Plus, this is Dot Dot Dot, and Somnai blew me away.

For this experience, Dot Dot Dot have taken over the former Old Metal Exchange, a huge 22 000 square foot venue in central London. It’s massive, and on entering the venue you find yourself in an amazing themed bar with giant alien ships, moving pictures in frames, and a selection of food and drink. Nothing has been skimped on here, you’ll want to arrive early to take it all in and have some food.
The show itself starts at a designated time slot. I was there on their preview night and they were slightly behind, but kept us informed about timing. They also have a cloak room which is well appreciated when coming straight from work with jackets and bags. Once were were all good to go, our group of 8 entered into the world with one of the actors telling us that the setting was 5 years after the end of the story. Humans defeated the attackers and used their technology for their own purposes. This theme didn’t continue into the show though, with it being a retelling of the events which occurred. We were basically entering a simulation I suppose, kinda like walking into a television. This transition felt a bit jarring to be honest, I would have preferred that the events not have been a recreation, but live in the moment. I felt like having the events all just being a recreation made things less urgent and ‘real’. If were were just learning about what happened then we were in no real danger. This point also wasn’t very clear and I didn’t realise it until after the show ended, being brought back to ‘present day’ or in this case, 5 years later. I don’t know, but it didn’t work for me.
Okay, enough with my personal opinions of the story, and onto what it was like. As mentioned, this was a preview night so there were some technical l glitches. I assume these will be corrected for when things open officially, so I won’t focus on this aspect, but just worth noting. These issues were with the VR sections, used at various points in the show. One section involved being on a small boat, which started off with a mesmerising boat trip down the Thames while alien ships destroyed London. The VR video was great for this first half and then was way too dizzying. I think that being sat in a stationary boat while you are in a VR boat being whipped around by winds was too confusing for my brain. Other parts of VR were hit or miss, with the last one being the best. I won’t spoil that for you but they go all out.
The show mixes these technology based sections with live action. The acting was great, and everyone played their characters really well. They were all very engaging, asking us our names and using them throughout. We were given simple tasks to perform which kept the action going between rooms. Some of these transition were more fun than others, having us crawl or slide, while others were obvious delaying and waiting for groups ahead of us.
Overall I had a great time, but looking back on it all, it just feels like something was missing. I didn’t really feel totally immersed, and I think a lot of that had to do with the framing and pace of the story. There was one bit in VR where we were in the middle of an outdoor attack, which should have been the height of the action and terror, but instead fell so incredibly flat that we all just stood around not knowing what to do. It could have been great with just a bit more polish, which I felt carried through my experience. I would love to return in a month and see how things have gotten on. I have full faith in Dot Dot Dot, and even with my harsh criticism would recommend it. It really is a great world class experience, just one that I think could and will get better.
Thanks to Dot Dot Dot and Lovepopupslondon.com for the experience.
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