War of the Worlds, 20th June
We thoroughly enjoyed War of the Worlds, as much for its flaws as for its ambitious and mainly highly successful special effects.
I had actually forgotten that it was based around the Jeff Wayne's prog rock opera of it, so when things began to kick off to this (in my mind) 80s montage music I was a little puzzled and amused. But they do carefully use this source material to set the tone and, much like a film, heighten the action and effects for you.
After the 'opening number' we are told we’re going to relive the alien invasion as told through the story of a couple who survived it.
Dotdotdot have taken over a building in the heart of the city and turned it into a steampunky, Victorian pub from where your quest commences. It is a mix of real actors taking you through the sets, and virtual reality where the alien invaders come to life in all their terrifying glory. Some of the set pieces for this are quite astounding, with the three legged creatures towering above you and laying siege. The graphics themselves do feel a little retro – VR has yet to catch up with the sophistication of computer games these days. And the actual tech sometimes had odd effects – there was a lag between your actual feet and your virtual feet which made everyone look like they were dancing, much to our amusement. Sometimes, when you went from one scene to another, your fellow refugees from the attack suddenly were slanting without their feet on the ground. But, for us, we rather appreciated being a part of an entertainment so new, it isn't yet a seamless alternative reality.
We also loved that, once the VR was on, you and everyone around you were assigned a character from the era – my friend was a ruddy-faced barrowboy type… but then later, when we had a trip along the Thames, as they were wearing a different headpiece, they’d transformed to an older, small gentleman. The ride on the Thames was a highlight for me, a great blend of visual, and indeed, physical stimulation.
The tickets are not cheap but with this production you can really see where the money is going – not only on the technology, as the physical sets are quite impressive, with a lot of attention to detail.