Old Metal Exchange, London
It is an understatement to say how much immersive theatre has grown. This immersive adaptation of War of the Worlds isn’t your standard active storytelling, the use of VR and holograms turns this central London office building into Victorian Britain being invaded by Martians and it is simply incredible work. HG Wells could have only dreamed of such technology in his day.
Tom Brittney and Anne-Marie Wayne, via hologram and VR, play George and Carrie Herbert, survivors of the invasion putting on a theatre show to talk about their experience but this isn’t just some meet and greet, as the audience we get transported back to the events of 1898 are informed that the technology came from the Martians. Suddenly all the technology we use takes an added dimension.
The technology is the star of the show, with an audience of ten it ensures that the technology is reliable and doesn’t break down. As a gamer the imagery can feel a little dated; the VR people that your fellow audience members turn into are a little jerky and strange, it looks great for the Playstation 2, less so as a Playstation 4 player, but the landscape animation is stunning. There is a scene with a hot air balloon that in combination with the physical staging makes you feel like you are up in the air. It is an incredible sensation and I felt lost in the story and I really appreciated Wells’ source material for the first time.
There is a considerate and healthy use of the technology, with audiences members not being in the VR for too long and as a spectacles wearer I didn’t feel physically uncomfortable as the headset, whilst bulky was adjustable. VR hasn’t really taken off in the gaming community and it is nice to see theatre ensure that it is put to good use.
Ultimately this is still about theatre and what the technology cannot replace is physical response, from climbing in the window of George Herbert’s house, the fear as we sat in pitch black darkness, the spray of water from the VR boat ride, as ridiculous as it sounds I briefly thought I was going to drown in those choppy waters. If you are considering booking or going. Don’t wear heels. Don’t wear anything that might reveal what underwear you are or are not wearing.
Jeff Wayne’s famous, and paid homage to in Brian Pern, musical version is used well. The Eve of War remains a powerful song. Wayne’s support for the show is clear to see, at 75 he has embraced the technology, which has enhanced the music and the story rather than overwhelmed it. The show is already a sell out in its early weeks
I don’t give stars but if I did this would get 5 stars. It is a fantastic night out. It is interesting as a VR and immersive experience, fun with excellent performances from the live team; I particularly enjoyed the sections with the artilleryman, Professor Ogilvy and Curtis a young solder who assists you out of London. I hope it has a long future, it is rare we get theatre like this and dotdotdot are a company to look out for and support.