Alice, A virtual Theme Park

Leda Douglas as Alice

Style: Child friendly fun
Where: Zoom

Rating: 4/5 stars

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has to be one of the most replicated and flexible pieces of art around. In my years of watching immersive theatre, I’ve seen it done in so many different styles and for so many different audiences. From the sexy Then She Fell to the bawdy Alice Underground.

This Alice takes the work back to its roots as a children’s entertainment.

Just as you would in a real theme park, here you choose a route through the various amusements. As you click on different links these cleverly take you into Zoom rooms where you meet the familiar cast of Wonderland. each then performs a short skit to you or plays a game with you. There’s a degree of audience participation (especially with the Queen of Hearts – an excellently cross Vera Chok) set at a level that the kids in the audience can both join in and enjoy.

Vera Chok as the Red Queen

Watching the other faces on screen, the kids clearly were having fun. Pitched somewhat at panto level, this show had a requisite amount of scatalogical humour and a baddie that was genuinely chilling as she threw you out of her Zoom. Clever tricks too with props and mirrors made the show a fun experience. However, unlike the best written panto, this didn’t have much of the kind of humour that works on both levels, so it was definitely more for the kids than the adults.

However, clocking in at just over an hour, I think this would make a pretty fine pre-bedtime activity (I might push the start time a little earlier to stop parents being faced with hyped-up kids just before bed). It was fun and lighthearted and full of the baffling charm of the original.

Theatre on Zoom can be unstatisfying at times. Children’s theatre on Zoom as a childless adult more so. But fun was definitely had – by me and by the target audience.

Review: The House that Slipped

L-R: Kas Darly (Julia), Sarah Finegan (Sandra), Michael Wagg (Kev) and Tasha Magigi (Yasmin)

Style: Virtual Futuristic drama
Where: Zoom

Rating: 3/5 stars

One day, the residents of 12 Labernum Drive find themselves 50 years in the future. One minute it’s April 2020 and lock down has been going about a month. The next thing they know they’re part of an agricultural Brockley unlike any they knew before.

There are really interesting ideas explored in The House that Slipped. The difference between the horror of now and an imagined idyllic future; The interplay of relationships between people forced to share space both under normal London conditions – i.e. houses split into flats and lockdown conditions – family forced to stay with each other under unnatural circumstances; and what it means to make life changing decisions as a group rather than an individual.

In some ways, perhaps there are too many of these questions and themes. The action can feel a little disjointed and the discussions with cast members seemed to end just as they got going. We got told aspects of the future and it was a tempting glimpse (and answers to our pre-show questionnaire were cleverly woven in) but it felt a little incomplete. What might work in a live action immersive – only seeing a portion of the show – feels less satisfying in this format.

There’s a lot to potentially develop in this show. The characters and their relationships to each other are interesting and – more drawn out – could have a lot of depth. I found Sandra (Sarah Finegan) particularly intriguing and Yasmin (Tasha Magigi) the most fun to spend time with, but that may be because the other 2020 characters were less sympathetic.

With the characters from 2070, these were less fleshed out as three dimensional beings and more plot points. They told of of the mistakes to come and made their own mistakes about our history in amusing and interesting ways.

Ultimately, there’s a great deal of potential in The House That Slipped, but it needs to perhaps make a decision about what it wants to do and be. Is it a futuristic parable? A relationship drama? A virtual escape room? At the moment it has elements of all of this but only scratches the surface of each leaving you with not quite enough of any one element. But if they tighten that up, there’s the potential for a very interesting show there.

Review: Jury Duty

Style: Virtual crime thriller
Where: Zoom

Book here.

Rating: 4/5 stars

In this world turned upside down, emergency legislation has been rushed through to do away with barristers. Now the accused in court have only you – the intrepid members of the jury to determine their guilt or innocence. Good luck!

Staring Tom Black (previously seen in Crisis, What Crisis? and Crooks 1926) as Harry Briggs, an investigative journalist possibly turned arsonist, this online adventure lets the audience decide the fate of the accused. You are guided throughout by a faceless convenor (Joe Ball) who manages your experience whisking you from Zoom room to Zoom room to talk with your fellow jurors and the accused.

At first the experience can feel somewhat overwhelming with an enormous initial data dump of documents for you to sift through and decipher for clues. However, if you work well with the other jurors you soon get a handle on the information and as the experience goes on your are able – through emails and phone calls to piece together a reasonable picture of the events?

Or are you? This is a complex story that keeps you engaged right up to the end. We were lucky in that we did correctly suss out the ending, but I don’t think it would have affected the fun we had on the journey had we got it wrong.

I’ve been missing theatre – and particularly immersive theatre – so much since the lockdown started. And while there’s nothing quite like being there in the flesh, this is a very clever and well-adapted piece that takes full advantage of the technology we are all living on now to deliver a well crafted and engaging story. And while there were a few technical glitches, they didn’t interrupt either our enjoyment of our sleuthing.

Zoom isn’t the same as real life. But this was the best time I’ve had on a Zoom call thus far. It was a glorious relief from the tedium of the medium. It was as well crafted as the best immersive theatre, just clever enough to challenge the audience and just solvable enough to give a satisfying and fun experience.

If you’re bored of box sets and tired of the tedium this is the perfect antidote. My only quibble is that once you’ve done it once, the experience isn’t very replicable. So I won’t be able to do it again and again, much as I would wish to.

Review: Jekyll/Hyde

Credit: Sophia Romualdo

Style: Victorian puzzle solver
Where: Various locations around Waterloo starting at the Vaults.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Not suitable for those with mobility issues.

What did you do last night? We’ll we’ve all had those mornings. Where we piece together the debauchery that took place the night before as we crawl into our cornflakes with shame. That’s the basic premise of Jekyll/Hyde.

Much like it’s predecessor show 80 Days, A Real World Adventure this is as much an interactive game as it is an immersive experience. Similarly, you run around an area of London with a map and your phone answering clues and making choices about how you want to proceed as you discover more and more about your dastardly deeds from the night before under the influence of mad scientist Frey (a delightfully impish Daniel Chrisostomou).

Along the way you are also helped by the coldly experimental Goldmann (Chloe Mashiter) who makes you feel under a microscope just by looking at you and a sweet and well-meaning lawyer Edmonton (Tim Kennington).

Daniel Chrisostomou as Frey. Credit Sofia Romualdo.

My key tip would be to dress warmly. Most of the clues are outside and while you will be racing around a lot, you definitely need layers to make sure you’re in any fit state to answer them.

The clues themselves are challenging enough to be interesting and hard to solve while also being solvable enough not to lead to severe frustrations. Just like 80 days, they offer a chance to get a unique perspective on a place you’ve probably been a million times. I definitely learned much while enjoying myself hugely.

For me, the ending wasn’t quite as sharp as previous Fire Hazard shows and as such the experience slightly petered out. I also wonder again how repeatable the experience is – as once you know the answers it would be hard to have the same level of experience. That may come to be a crimp in the business model of Fire Hazard. Lots of immersive works by having people come back to visit the world time and time again, and while I would love to replicate the night out we enjoyed, I don’t know that this is possible.

Tim Kennington. Credit Sofia Romualdo

But having said that, this was a cracking night out. That’s why I would want to replicate it. The atmosphere created by the superb cast as well as the challenge of the game was enormous fun and the time flew by. I could have gone on for hours more.

Jekyll/Hyde works best when done by a pair or in a small group. It’s an enormous laugh and one best shared with a friend. It’s running throughout the Vaults festival and if you get the chance I highly recommend it. Go along, learn about Waterloo and it’s surrounding areas, laugh your (thick woolly) socks off and decide exactly what kind of punishment you deserve for being the animal brought out by Frey’s elixir.

Review: Red Palace

Teddy Lamb as Wolf. Photo by Nic Kane.

Style: Burlesque Fairy Tale
Where: The Vaults

Rating: 4/5 stars

Brought to the Vaults by the same people who brought us Divine Proportions I was a little nervous about Red Palace. However, despite having a few issues hearing the actors over the dining portion of the event, the company had clearly taken some of the issues on board. This even had a little interaction over the dinner – but as this was optional, there was plenty of action during the main show which took place after dinner. It was well lit, well amplified and more importantly well-staged, directed and written.

The story was quite simple and classic. Macbeth as delivered through classic Fairy Tale characters. It had elements throughout of intrigue, audience participation, cabaret and puzzle solving – all my favourite parts of immersive theatre. The action zips along nicely and the different scenes are well played. The space is complicated and the queuing between scenes was sometimes a little awkward. It also meant that sometimes the noise from one scene bled into the action of another which could be distracting.

My other question is on the burlesque element, which I am not convinced brought a lot to the show. I am never quite sure how I feel about burlesque. Is it simply a way of dressing up stripping as something more modern or is it empowering and sexy? And if it is, why aren’t men doing it? The dancers here were definitely powerful and danced brilliantly, so if burlesque is your thing then I am sure this added element would definitely enhance your experience.

Nic Kane Photography

What worked especially well was the layered experience of each room adding elements to the story. As the audience all saw these elements in different orders, it was well written that these never seemed confused or out of order. Someone who – for example – went into the forest at their first shot may have a very different understanding throughout than those of us who started at the gingerbread bar, but the different experiences enhanced rather than hindered the overall show.

This is a really fun experience. The food is an optional extra but it is genuinely delicious and definitely worth it. The performances were all superb with enough wit in their improvisation to show that the actors had done in-depth character thinking and understood what would normally be considered archetypes. For me the standout was Emily Essery as Red, but overall the quality was high and the thought that had gone into the show was obvious.

Review: Souvenir

Emma cast and guests 2.JPGStyle: Hyper-real, deeply intimate drama
Where: Various

Rating: 5/5 stars

Surprise parties are the worst aren’t they? They’re always either not a surprise or not particularly welcome. I’m such an event planner, no one will ever be able to throw me a surprise party as I plan literally every big event months in advance. So luckily this will never happen to me.

However, at Souvenir, I found myself attending a surprise 30th birthday party. Held by Richard (Damian Gildea) for his partner Anna (Sonya Cullingford) ably assisted by her best friend Margot (Bonnie Adair). It is fair to say, that by the end of the drama, Anna is not the only one in for a surprise.

Brought to you by the same people who made the superb Recollection this is a drama that plays again with our understanding of memories, how they make us who we are and how as we continue to curate them online, we may change how they behave offline.

This is a powerful and intense drama made even more so for the daring gambit of the fact that each performance is created in a punter’s home (reveal: on this occasion it was mine). You go to a real house, stand by their real stove and that makes the moving story of the party that becomes so much more, so much more real to you.

It’s an astonishing experience. One made more intimate by the detritus of a real person’s flat. Of watching the action take place while standing next to the stove. by watching things fall apart, knowing that that space has probably seen its own share of domestics, tears, recriminations.

This is a great experience and a moving piece of work that is daringly staged. I highly recommend going to a performance near you. And if there isn’t one – host one!

Preview: Bridge Command

fe1752e4-3eab-409e-9353-81c60b528862One of the nicest things about writing this blog is how much I have got to know some of the immersive theatre community. In particular, I have become an ardent admirer and fan of the work that comes out of Colab Factory.

In part, this is because the central cast and crew are just so bloody nice. In part, it’s because their shows are so well put together and thoughtful. But mostly, it’s because they combine these two factors into the centrally important, overriding element that makes immersive theatre work: they put the audience’s experience at the heart of what they do.

Writing a review without spoilers is tough enough. Writing a preview even harder. But I will do my best.

Last week I was privileged to spend an afternoon with the team as they blocked out, rehearsed and tested their latest adventure Bridge Command. Part computer game, part immersive spaceship simulation, this short family-oriented show gives the small (6 person) audience/crew the change to learn a set of computer-based roles and systems and make game-changing decisions.


The rehearsal process was fascinating as the actors both had to facilitate the action enough to ensure they were learning new things each time they ran through the scene but also remember that they were testing how usable the technology was for an audience facing it for the first time.

One thing that hadn’t occurred to me was that they have to rehearse for different types of audience. In this case from kids hyped up on sugar to drunken stag dos. Watching them do so was both revealing and fascinating and has made me vow to make sure my gin money is spent mostly after the performances from now on!

In the show, all the tropes of space travel fun are engaged. The technology is challenging at first – part of the testing is ironing that out – but when you get to grips with it, there is much fun to be had. Each member of the crew faces different challenges as per their assigned role and overall, each will contribute to the joint success or failure of the venture.

I saw Bridge Command while still in rehearsal so am aware only of its potential (and let’s face it, as a Colab project it has a lot of potential) but can absolutely see not only how enjoyable it will be as a family experience, but how much I hope I will get to take along my computer-loving nephew one day.

Review: Tracing Erased Memories

IMG_20190809_201240Style: Technology-enabled walking tour
Where: Central London

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Tracing Erased Memories is a concept that attempts to put you in the shoes of young, enthusiastic, impassioned protestors and their personal testimonies of mistreatment at the hands of the police. The experience is a guided journey, where a guide steers you from Trafalgar Square to Parliament Square while you listen on headphones to speakers from the London Student riots of 2010 and the Cairo Riots of 2011.

As you walk, you see a similar journey filmed between Talaat Harb Square and Tahrir Square in Cairo joining the two pieces on a similar journey. Watching the street you aren’t on while walking a place as familiar as Whitehall was discombobulating but that also allowed you to get into the more nervous mindset of the protestor – particularly one unused to protest.

The stories of the protest were interesting. Every now and again you would stop and hear someone tell of the way they were treated – either by strangers or the police – both in Cairo and London. The multi-media presentation blended news footage, animation and new video with the sound of the stories and the street.

This is a very interesting way to spend an hour and to think about protest, protestors and the reaction to them. The show has a point of view, and it is presented well. Even when I didn’t agree with the point of view of the protestors (there was some conspiratorial thinking that I am pretty confident isn’t true) I understood what was driving them to feel that way. the presentation of the violence of the state was impressively intimidating and while I have gone on many, many protests in my time, I have never been kettled and it was moving to hear the pain of those who had. For that to be their early experience of asking for their voices to be heard in a democracy.


The show is unabashedly presented from a left-wing perspective. This, of course, suits me down to the ground. But I do think there might be mileage to hear from the voices of those who protest from the opposite perspective. Not becuase I would ever wish to be –  or have anyone be –  persuaded by their arguments, but because I think the contrasts and similarities of experience would be fascinating. Imagine doing a similar project, but with those who marched against education cuts on the one hand and in support of Tommy Robinson on the other. What could each side teach each other about their shared experiences?

But that’s a minor thought and doesn’t distract from the interest or power of the original. It’s a journey that has easy distractions, as you weave around tourists guided by your guide and watching your Cairo counterpart’s journey. This is an ongoing project that has been developed first in Amsterdam and now in the UK and Cairo. Part art installation, part immersive walking tour it is interesting and engaging. You can see much potential in the idea and the concept and I look forward to seeing where they take it next.





Review: Gingerline’s Chambers of Flavour

Chambers Food Credit Emma Nathan 1
Credit: Emma Nathan

Style: Immersive dining experience
Where: Undisclosed location near Hoxton
When: Booking until end September

Rating: 5/5 stars

Not suitable for those with mobility issues, though email to see what they can do. 

Gingerline keep their secrets close to the chest, which makes reviewing their immersive dining experiences difficult. I don’t want to accidentally give away details that are best left unshared until after you have done it.

However, I persevere! Chambers of Flavour is the second Gingerline experience I have done and is significantly different from The Grand Expedition. Where that was static, in this experience you move from place to place and need to be pretty mobile to do so.

Chambers_ Credit Rob Greig 2.jpg
Credit: Rob Grieg

The food is exciting and interesting. Extremely varied, it is also well spaced out so despite eating a significant number of courses, you don’t feel overfull at any time. The drinks are also excellent – with good wine and fun cocktails designed to accompany the food well.

This is a more challenging experience than Grand Expedition and for me a better one for it. Each chamber offered a challenge, or a game or an experience that complimented the theme of the food while also keeping us in childlike giggles or wonder throughout.

Chambers of Flavour is not cheap, but it definitely delivers value. the food is delicious, but it is the fun with which the whole experience is delivered that really packs a punch.