Immersive theatre has hit the mainstream in London, in no small part thanks to Punchdrunk’s epic show, The Drowned Man, which is currently taking over a disused post office sorting building in Paddington.
The term ‘immersive’ can mean different things, but in essence it’s a show which lets you explore, touch and interact with the set or the performers, becoming part of the action. These shows should whet your appetite for boundary-breaking theatre in the first few months of 2014.
The Drowned Man by Punchdrunk
The huge-scale show transforms a five-floor building into the fictional Hollywood worlds of Temple Studios, with sets including a forest and a desert. Audience members wear Venetian masks and are free to wander around like ghosts, poking around the rich visual world and following different characters through two stories of infidelity, madness and murder. The phenomenal success of the show has seen its run extended several times – it is currently booking until March but could extend until the end of 2014. Until Mar
Vault Festival at The Vaults, Waterloo
This six-week arts celebration in the tunnels underneath Waterloo station is back for its second year, with two immersive plays. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas tells a twisted story of narcotics and the American Dream, and has been created by a friend of the author Hunter S Thomson. Meanwhile, The Cement Garden is an adaptation of Ian McEwan’s first novel, exploring coming of age and the distortions of a 14-year-old mind. Aside from the plays, the programme is packed with parties, free comedy and other entertainment. 28 Jan – 8 Mar
The Roundhouse in Camden is the site of this raw, mind-bending show which is part circus, part carnival. The different set pieces see performers flying, screaming, bursting through walls, floating in tanks of water above you and walking on a tarpaulin which covers the whole audience. Flat shoes are recommended and you may get wet, but you won’t want to stop dancing at the end. Until Mar
The team behind Future Cinema have long been pioneers of mixing movies with immersive theatre, with sets and actors recreating the world of the film before you sit down and watch it. Creator Fabian Riggall wants to focus more on family-friendly events, and productions have included Bugsy Malone and Ghostbusters. Next up is Who Framed Roger Rabbit, launching on Valentine’s Day at Troxy in East London, which could feature an appearance from Jessica Rabbit. 14 Feb – 9 Mar
The Hotel Plays
Three works by American playwright Tennessee Williams are explored in 90 minutes in The Hotel Plays, moving from the lobby to the suites of The Langham Hotel. It’s a tribute to Williams, who spent much of his later life living in hotels. Innovative theatre company Defibrillator has created the show, which includes a look at the impact of war through a newly-married couple’s relationship, and the story of a married man who keeps a younger woman in a pink bedroom for eight years. 11 Feb – 8 Mar