War of the Worlds: The Immersive Experience

War of the Worlds: The Immersive Experience

Fan or not, this is one of the best things to do in the capital right now…

H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds has long been one of the iconic tomes in the realms of science fiction, with a tale of Martians invading London and Surrey. Indeed, many of our local areas get a namecheck including Wimbledon, Kingston, Putney and Woking – he was living in Woking when he wrote it, and he also lived in Wandsworth.

It inspired an album with Jeff Wayne penning a host of tunes to accompany a narrative of the story with the voices of Richard Burton and David Essex. And, as children, my husband and his sister loved it. I’d never heard of it, very unfairly dismissing sci-fi as not my thing.

So, when the opportunity came up to try out the immersive version, I had to grab tickets for a nostalgia trip for hubby and to see if I could be convinced of its merits.

You start in a steampunk style bar, complete with themed cocktail. When a plume of smoke emerges out of the alien that matches your coloured wristband, it’s your turn. You’ll know that another group is set to be called when a previous party emerges from the doorway to the experience to shouts of cheering and hooting: “We have survivors!”, we are told by the actor leading them.

It would be a shame to give too much away. Suffice to say that you’ll spend a couple of hours wandering different scenes, including a fire-razed common and a bombed-out street. You’ll meet different actors on the way, each revealing parts of the plot. In parts, it is genuinely terrifying, in others, the actors keep it amusing. Then there’s the music, with Jeff having remastered every track and sound effect for the experience. The interval takes place in the atmospheric red weed bar. I tried a themed cocktail – and good it was too.

But what really stands out is the VR – not only for the effects but also the ‘real’ surroundings in which you experience it. Step into a boat, don a headset and you race down the Thames, past the destroyed Houses of Parliament, bumped along by the waves. You enter a confession booth where writhing tentacles are thrust into your personal space (well, not too personal!). Then you take to the air in a hot air balloon. The finale actually had me feeling really emotional.

It’s not the cheapest experience in London right now, but it is one of the best. And at around two hours, it does seem like good value. There doesn’t seem to have been any expense spared in creating the experience – this is no cynical cash-in. And the chances of you not humming the theme tunes for at least the next week are a million to one… yep, that’s a Jeff Wayne reference. I have been convinced…


Tickets from £45.

56 Leadenhall Street, EC3

Recommended age 10+