The best immersive shows to see in London right now
The social distancing rules, and other Covid-19 safety measures, have challenged theatre artists to find creative solutions for performances that reduce risks for all involved while still keep audiences engaged. That live connection between actor and viewer is such a vital part of why people love this medium, and it’s been a thrill to see productions popping up again post-lockdown. Judging by ticket sales, the audience appetite is clearly there, as long as shows feel safe to attend.
One strand of live performance is the immersive production, which can be adapted to suit our new circumstances, perhaps taking advantage of outdoor or alternative venues, and can still make the audience feel like a key part of the action without actually invading anyone’s physical space. Here are some of the best immersive shows in London to check out.
Producers Katy Lipson and Mathilde Moulin have collaborated with French theatremakers Musidrama on this socially distanced outdoor play – which premiered in France this summer, specifically designed by Samuel Sené and Gabrielle Jourdain for our new Coronavirus world. It’s a timely story about mental health and anxiety, as Sarah is approached by someone she believes to be a stranger, yet somehow he can hear her thoughts.
The intriguing 50-minute show will be shared with audiences via a combination of live performance from actors and a 3D sound design that you listen to on your own headphones. Audiences (of no more than 15 per show, who are also asked to wear masks throughout) will be instructed on how to download the audio on a groundbreaking app that synchronises the spectators and actors, and, once they’ve bought their tickets online, they will receive the exact location. The cast alternates between three different public spaces in London – Tower Bridge, Greenwich, and Clapham Common.
The cast features Charles Angiama, Louis Bernard, Chloe Gentles, Max Gold, Richard Heap, Aoife Kennan, Katja Quist, and Laura White, and the show runs from 31 August-10 October. If successful, this could well become a more widely adopted model for theatre, as it mixes creative performance solutions with cutting-edge technology to make audiences feel secure about social distancing without sacrificing great drama.
Head back in time and encounter one family’s brutal battle for supremacy, set in the cockney criminal underworld of gangs, heists, horse race betting, fortune tellers, boxing matches, and a desperate game of Russian roulette. Here in the gritty environs of 1920s Elephant and Castle, you can meet real-life gangster Alfie White and notorious criminals the Cortesi Brothers. Who will you take on? Can you spot a shady deal, and will you grab more territory or face extinction?
COLAB Theatre’s excitingly ambitious immersive production has been specially adapted so that everything is in line with social distancing, and so the audience, staff, and actors are all protected. The hardworking, multi-rolling cast still impress, and there are still opportunities for audience members to engage in tasks and drive the story.
You book tickets as a “pod” – so two, four, or six people who are comfortable being 1m away from each other, like a household bubble. Performers will lead these pods through the various sections, and audiences can interact with the world and with each via phone calls, just like in the original production.
There are also plenty of safety measures in place. Props, furniture and phones are cleaned on a daily basis, extractor fans clear the air throughout, and audiences are encouraged to use antibacterial wipes as they go. Masks are provided for anyone who doesn’t bring one, and the actors all wear gloves and visors. Audience members are required to undergo an infrared temperature check before entering – anyone who is above the normal body temperature will be asked to leave and a full refund provided. Drinks are served through waited service or a separated bar, and washing facilities with hand sanitisers are provided at regular intervals.
Sherlock: The Official Live Game
Calling all budding detectives! Fancy matching your sleuthing skills against Sherlock Holmes himself? Don your deerstalker for this all-new mystery from BBC series creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, featuring stars of the show Benedict Cumberbatch, Andrew Scott, Martin Freeman and more. They have collaborated with escape room experts Time Run on this 100-minute immersive escape experience: you and your team have to solve all the mysteries and puzzles before time runs out.
This west London cinematic adventure lets you delve into Sherlock’s iconic sets, with specially recorded video and audio assistance from the cast. It’s suitable for ages 10+, and you book online in teams of two or more players. Teams play exclusively in their own groups, to aid socially distancing (everyone is asked to stay 2m apart from staff and other groups), and all are asked to wear a face covering and use the hand gel provided. Staff will wear PPE, and there’s an enhanced surface and cleaning routine, with each game room cleaned after each use.
That means you can feel completely reassured about safety precautions, and put your focus on answering Mycroft Holmes’s call to join the Network, figuring out why there has been a rash of break-ins across the capital, and why you have the keen wit and adventurous spirit to follow the great detective.
You’re invited to the Guild of Misrule’s Roaring Twenties bash, hosted by the one and only Jay Gatsby. This inventive, super-stylish immersive theatre experience plunges you into F. Scott Fitzgerald’s hedonistic Jazz Age world, combining a dramatisation of the gripping story by committed actors with period sets to explore, and plenty of opportunities to imbibe bootleg liquor or Champagne while you Charleston the night away.
This popular experience takes place at Immersive LDN’s Mayfair mansion, an historic building that used to be home to Queen Victoria’s Rifles Association. It’s the perfect setting for that shady charmer Gatsby, whose heart belongs to the beautiful Daisy – now married to millionaire Tom Buchanan. Let Nick Carraway guide you around this sumptuous world, where you’ll also find the golfer Jordan Baker, mechanic George Wilson and his unhappy wife Myrtle.
Excitingly, the immersive Gatsby is reopening on 1 October, reimagined as a 1920s masquerade ball – presumably a setting that will allow for easier social distancing, as well as ingeniously incorporating masks. Other Coronavirus precautions will be in place, such as a reduced audience size, face coverings, hand sanitiser stations, and temperature checks. So, dig out your smartest tuxedo or most sparkling flapper frock, and enjoy this decadent escapism, surely needed now more than ever.
While many productions are figuring out how to work around social distancing measures, this upcoming stage version of George Orwell’s dystopian novel is making a virtue of them by incorporating them into the immersive show. Histrionic Productions, who transform derelict spaces into immersive theatrical environments, plans to open its new adaptation in early 2021, taking full advantage of a time when Orwell’s dark vision feels much closer to our own experience than usual. Protocols like PPE, screening, and social distancing will become part of the telling of this enduring tale – after all, the Ministry of Truth is a natural for imposing things like temperature screening.
The company’s established set-up will also suit our current circumstances, since it involves a large flexible site, using technology like an app, cashless food and drink purchases, and innovative design and performances. Most importantly, audiences will experience firsthand a powerful, multi-sensory version of this defining story, featuring Big Brother and the Thought Police.
The BBC’s beloved time lord is coming to the stage. Opening in February 2021 at Immersive LDN, this new live experience is set in 1940 at the height of the Blitz. A weapon of unknown origin destroys part of Mayfair, opening up a rift in time and space. UNIT is recruiting help to deal with the ensuing chaos – which involves Daleks, Cybermen, and a character from Time Lord Victorious. Can you step up and be the hero? It’s your chance to save the planet, while journeying to other worlds and confronting both monsters and aliens.
Covid-19 secure guidelines will all be complied with, such as: venue and zone capacity limits to ensure social distancing, venue-wide sterilisation, hand sanitisation stations throughout the building, visitors and staff all required to wear face coverings, temperature checks upon entry, and a no-questions-asked ticket exchange policy.
Officially licensed by BBC Studios (and with the accompanying merchandise to prove it), this keenly awaited theatrical enterprise is a love letter to Doctor Who fans. Writer Daniel Dingsdale promises to draw on the show’s rich legacy. But it’ll also be accessible to those who can’t tell their sonic screwdriver from their TARDIS, and, as directed by Secret Cinema’s Tom Maller, should offer an epic adventure.