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  • Writer's pictureImmersive Rumours

Review: Jeff Wayne's The War of The Worlds - the Immersive Experience

This review was originally posted in January 2020

Immersive Rumours received complimentary tickets to this show and as such, are disclosing this information before our review. They have had no input in the below and all thoughts are our own.


Introduction

One of the biggest immersive events in London right now is Jeff Wayne's The War of the Worlds - The Immersive Experience, created by dotdotdot (who previous brought us Somnai). Based on the 1978 concept album, the experience drops you into Martian invaded London in the year 1898. Over the course of 110 minutes, and covering 25 themed areas and 22,000 sq feet, the journey is probably unlike anything else you've ever experienced...

Using a mix of virtual reality headsets, detailed sets, live actors, pyrotechnics, holograms and projection mapping, this immersive experience uses every tool available to them to throw you head-first into the action from the moment you walk in the door.


The Experience

A short walk from Aldgate tube station, The War of the Worlds is located right in the middle of the City - walking to the venue, you're struck by the size of the skyscrapers surrounding you. It's quite a stark contrast to the version of London we were about to be thrown into - the only things dominating the skyline for near on the next two hours would be Martian invaders.


Groups of up to 12 guests are ushered into the start of the experience roughly ever 10 minutes or so - your turn to enter signalled by large plumes of coloured smoke that erupt from the gigantic Martian fighting machine mounted on the ceiling of The Spirit of Man bar in the lobby of the venue. The smoke corresponds with a coloured wristband you're given at the box office. After a short briefing at the start, you're given a moment to get to know your fellow attendees before ushered into the first area.

The narrative is set up quickly - through reclaimed Martian technology (all the fancy tricks we mentioned in the introduction) we're about to experience first hand the struggles that George (the protagonist of Jeff Wayne's album) and his wife Carrie both went through during the invasion. Some time later, after the dust settled, they both committed themselves to detailing and sharing the horrors of the invasions.


Those familiar with the story of The War of the Worlds, either through the iconic album or the original H.G. Wells novel will recognise the locations visited throughout the show, from Horsell Common where you first encounter the invaders, to the coast of Essex where you sail alongside the HMS Thunder Child. All of these locations and events are recreated by a well-balanced mix of live actors, detailed sets, lighting and sound cues and VR headsets, which put you right in the middle of the story.



There's no fear of missing out on any of the action in this show - you're following a linear storyline from one room to another, always guided by the actors and story. While every group will have the same experience on the whole, the interactions with the characters (who are great across the board at reacting to whatever is thrown at them) make the overall experience feel tailored and personal to you and your group of survivors.

From tying a bandage around the bleeding leg of an injured soldier, to watching a woman get grabbed by a Martian tentacle, there are dramatic real-world moments scattered throughout the show alongside the extended VR sequences where the biggest action takes place. Those familiar with immersive theatre events will feel right at home during the real-world moments - the audience is often required to think on their feet and come up with answers to questions posed to them by the actors, but it's all fairly light hearted and any slip-ups are taken in jest.

The use of Jeff Wayne's score throughout the experience is, as you would expect, very well used. Particular highlights include the recurring use of 'The Eve of the War' throughout and the ''Thunder Child' sequence. Before attending the experience, our group all confessed that we weren't incredibly familiar with the original album, but upon leaving we all found ourselves humming 'The Eve of the War' over and over again.


While the implementation of VR throughout is on the whole really strong, you do feel the limits of the technology pushing back against the shows ambition - scenes that are otherwise incredibly memorable are marred slightly by occasional glitches and bugs. It's easy to forgive however - the novelty and thrill of experiencing anything in VR is incredibly entertaining, and that feeling is only amplified by the huge scale of the virtual sets you move through during the show. Bugs aside, the VR sections are the true highlight of the experience and dotdotdot should be commended for pushing it as far as they do here.


Conclusion


8/10


With a range of impressive technology on display throughout, the scope and scale of this show is incredibly impressive, if not slightly let down by the technical limitations of VR. From the opening moments, you're thrown head-first into the world and the excitement doesn't let up until the out-of-this-world finale. As an immersive experience it ticks all the boxes and is a great group activity.


Tips and Recommendations


- One member of your group (up to 12 people enter and stay as a group throughout) will be made the leader early on. This person gets a good amount of the actors attention. Avoid putting yourself in charge if you want to take more of a backseat and just observe.


- There's a large themed bar in the lobby of the venue, and a small bar you visit in the interval. The interval only lasts around 20 minutes so it needs to be a swift drink before carrying on with the experience.


- If you suffer from motion sickness, some elements of this show might not be for you - the extended VR section where you're on a boat made some of our group feel slightly queasy.


- The show involves a bit of physical activity, from going down narrow staircases to slides and crawling through holes in walls. If you have accessibility needs, it's worth contacting the venue beforehand.

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