For those that only know of the 2005 War of the Worlds Tom Cruise Hollywood blockbuster, you’ll be surprised to know that it was first a novel published all the way back in 1897 by H. G. Wells. Since then it has spawned radio dramas, comics, video games, television series and, of course, Tom Cruise running.
One of the most popular adaptations is the Musical Version of The War of the Worlds by Jeff Wayne, this is based on the radio drama version of the book. It gets quite confusing with all these different adaptations (as there have been hundreds), rule of thumb in 2023 if someone is talking about WOTW it is most likely Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds (Sorry Tom Cruise).
If you haven’t consumed anything WOTW’s related I recommend listening to the Jeff Wayne album at least once before going to visit the experience. Listen to the radio drama if you want to fully immerse yourself with the story but being over 6 hours long it’s hard to recommend.
The experience itself takes place in a venue that doesn’t look dissimilar to a wetherspoons. As you enter you find yourself in “The Spirit of Man” bar and restaurant, which apparently is the world’s only steampunk bar in the world. Here you can find gastro-pub grub with a steampunk-like aesthetic. The centrepiece is a Martian Fighting Machine with hypnotic eyes and shoots smoke so you know when it’s your turn to go into the experience itself, quite impressive seeing it crash land in the middle of the pub.
The experience itself takes you through multiple “scenes” spanning just under two hours to complete. These vary from live actors that you can speak to and banter with, cinematic style films that you watch and virtual reality pieces. I’ll keep it vague so as not to spoil what happens, but needless to say if you are familiar with the source material you will get a kick out of the story. The acting was camp but enough for you to immerse yourself with and believable if you’re in the right frame of mind. The set pieces were well done and believable and quite impressive for the small amount of space that is in the back of a gastro pub.
The virtual reality part was the weakest part of the experience and could do with a bit more development. One of the “scenes” that I experienced saw my character having to refresh (screen goes white and resets your position) quite often leading to a subpar experience. There is also a laughable aerial view of London which makes Google Maps look like a supercomputer. The virtual reality segments whilst adding another dimension, ultimately is held back by the technology it comes from and does little to stand out from the stellar acting and well realised set pieces.
Despite the VR issues I would still recommend the immersive experience but as a bare minimum listen to the Jeff Wayne album before you go, otherwise you will be utterly confused by weird shaped robots and old London voices.
The War of the Worlds Immersive Experience is produced by Layered Reality. If you’re about in London you can still experience it for yourself by booking on the website.
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