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Review: Wishmas - A Fantastical Christmas Adventure

We jump aboard the Wishmas Train to review Secret Cinema's latest immersive production at The Old Bauble Factory beneath Waterloo Station.


Wishmas - an original immersive production from the Secret Cinema team - has opened at The Old Bauble Factory in Waterloo. Tailored for families and younger audiences, this 60-minute walkthrough experience promises a 'fully immersive festive realm, featuring live actors and enchanting storytelling'. Located beneath Waterloo Station on Launcelot Street, it takes place within The Vaults - a venue well known for having hosted a string of immersive theatre shows in the past.

Wishkeeper making baubles with children at Wishmas

Photo: Matt Crockett


Our Wishmas journey begins in the Sorting Office with one of the Wishkeepers - the elf-like assistants whose mission is to ensure every Christmas wish makes it safely to Father Christmas. With the walls of the room adorned with dozens of small birdhouses, we're told all about the journey wishes make, the important role Robins play in delivering said wishes, and a bit about the world of Wishmas. It's an extended scene in which guests sit and listen to a Wishkeeper deliver a monologue - something that occurs several times throughout the show. Whether that is a blessing or a curse likely has to do with how engaged your little ones are if you're visiting as a family...


Photos: Matt Crockett


One of Wishmas' strongest elements is undoubtedly the set design by Julie Landau. The Wishmas Train, with its candy-striped poles and festive dividers, feels like stepping into an alternate universe where TfL have extended the Northern Line to Lapland. The Merry Maps of Everywhere Room - where reindeers' movements are tracked across the globe - is a festive twist on a military command centre, and small details such as the individually labelled doorways in the themed hallways of the venue sell the idea that we're only seeing a small part of a much larger festive operation.

Wishmas Train with Wishkeeper walking down aisle

Photo: Matt Crockett


The latter half of the experience allows the audience to interact with the world in a tangible way - tasked with using Wishmas' reindeer trackers to locate missing puzzle pieces, and turning large cogs to reverse time with the Clock of Now. These activities, all thoughtfully designed with children in mind, provide rewarding ways to involve every guest in the narrative. It's a welcome shift from the opening half-hour, which lacked any hands-on activity.

Merry Maps of Everywhere Room with three Wishkeepers

Photo: Matt Crockett


The experience concludes with a face-to-face with Father Christmas. Always teed up to be the highlight of any festive experience, the show's ending delivers a series of wholesome moments. There are some fun sleight-of-hand tricks on display from both Father Christmas and his Wishkeeper assistant, and a short sing-a-long section in which we're all encouraged to take part. While we visited without any children, the reactions and looks of wonder from those in our larger group seemed to confirm that it's a heart-warming end to our time in Wishmas.


On top of the standard tickets that give you access to the full 60-minute walkthrough experience, there are a couple of other ticket options available for those looking to extend their visit. These include a meet and greet with Father Christmas (which includes a gift and souvenir photo), as well as a visit to the craft workshop where you can make your own bauble to take home.

Father Christmas at finale of Wishmas

Photo: Matt Crockett


Following Secret Cinema being bought out by TodayTix in 2022 for around $100 million, the company seem to now be entering a new phase. Reports of them taking over a venue in Camden Town for future productions have alluded to them moving away from the large-scale, free-roaming experiences that helped them become so well known and instead pivoting to timed-entry walkthrough experiences more akin to Wishmas. While this show works overall given its target audience, the potential retirement of the format that served them so well up until now would be a loss for both audiences and the immersive industry as a whole. It's hard to imagine an adaptation of something like Stranger Things or Guardians of the Galaxy working as well as a walk-through experience.


★★★½

 

Wishmas runs until 7th January near Waterloo Station. Tickets start at £29 and can be booked via wishmas.co.uk


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