Last week we were transported back in time to be immersed in Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds. Having seen a previous production at the O2 that used holograms, live actors, huge Martian machines, pyrotechnics, and a full orchestra conducted by Jeff Wayne himself, I was a bit skeptical if anything could match that experience. I have to say that I absolutely loved this one too - same story but treated very differently.
Where is it taking place?
In the City of London, a short stroll from Aldgate tube station. It's pretty easy to spot!
56 Leadenhall St, London EC3A 2BJ
How early should I arrive?
You should probably aim for 30 mins before your timed slot, as you have to pick up a wrist band, tokens for any per-ordered drinks, sign a disclaimer, and place jackets/bags etc. in a locker. You are allowed to have a phone with you, but once you exit the bar into the experience you must turn it off. The same goes for fitness tracker watches. Basically anything that lights up is a no-no.
Is it Covid safe?
It felt it. You go through the experience in timed groups of 8 people about every 30 minutes. You have you book tickets in multiples of 2 up to a maximum of 8 to make this work. We wore face masks throughout, plus were given a disposable mask to place over our eyes so that we didn't touch the inside of the VR headsets. I felt rather like a version of the Lone Ranger in mine! There was table service in both bars, with cleaning in between audience members. The toilets were spotless, and I loved the continuation of the Steam-Punk theme.
What should you wear?
Flat shoes/trainers are a must, you do have to climb a little (nothing onerous) and there is a spiral staircase and a slide to negotiate. I made the mistake of wearing a skirt - trousers would have been better.
How interactive is it really?
The short answer is very. You enter various locations of the story and interact with actors who part tell the story, and part get you to tell them what's happening. There's a bit of banter at times too. You have to follow their instructions, so if they tell you duck, you duck, if they tell you to climb through a window, you climb through it (remember not to wear a skirt ladies!). There are 3 scenes where you wear a VR headset, 2 of these involve the sensation of motion too. One was really weird as my son was turned into a Victorian gentleman, the 2 men in front of us appeared as Victorian women, and my son said that I looked like a child to him. The boat trip and the balloon ride were such fun, whilst the scene in the church had us all scream at one point. We really enjoyed this part of the experience, not least as it was new to both of us.
Can you buy food and drink there?
Yes, but remember that it's all completely cashless. The bar is more like a set from the story. There are Martian themed cocktails as well as normal bar fare. We didn't try the food, so can't say how good is was, but it was pretty standard pizza, burger, salad type options. You enter the experience from the bar, when it's time for your group to go in, a rush of steam is expelled in the same colour as your wristband.
How much are the tickets?
There isn't a straightforward answer to this. Performances are priced according to demand, a bit like an airline. The sooner you book the less your tickets will cost, and you can save money by choosing less busy days. I bought ours back in December and paid about £35 each, looking at the site the cheapest are around £50 each now.
Would we recommend it?
Heartily. It's not cheap, but it's certainly something different.