In London, a city consumed by power, you can enter into a world that is apart from all that: a world in which the power play is in your hands, in the hands of the audience. Immersive theatre switches roles between audience and actor, so that the lines between spectator and spectacle blur. Further, in our world consumed by speed and technology, you can be immersed in an experience that will last three and a half hours. You are sent the time and a clandestine location along with this message: “Be vigilant. You may find yourself carried into this fairytale at any moment, whisked away to the enchanted forest beyond the Palace, where figures dance between the trees and strange music hangs in the air”. Come dressed to a ‘T’: bring your ballgown best, your most ravishing heels, add a slick of sequins and a glint of glitter, because you do not know what your night holds, except that it will be an escape from the present.
Mind you: this is not for the faint-hearted. At The Lost Estate’s Great Masked Ball, you will be welcomed by a cast of characters and a banquet with fellow guests will ensue. There are platters piled high with smoked beef stroganoff and steaming buckwheat pilaf, baskets of black Siberian bread, hot from the ovens, and trays of rhubarb macarons. Adapted from the canonical ballet, Swan Lake, a Russian theme runs through the night, complete with ‘fairytale’ vodka-infused cocktails and Tschaikovsky’s compositions, played soulfully by the Arensky Chamber Orchestra. Indeed, entering into this universe is entering into a make-believe world, with giant cardboard chandeliers, shimmering scrims, characters falling in love and deceiving each other. The dramas (always) end when Truth enters.
Related article: Happening this Fall in London
The elaborately fabricated sets are handmade by Darling & Edge and the intense but subtle lighting is created by Bailes + Light, both immersive design companies that also fashion environments for East London’s Gingerline, another awe-inspiring immersive theatre company that “takes intrepid diners on an absurdist adventure like no other” and spin you into a dreamy, fantastical journey of art, performance, food, drink and design.
Related article: Molecular Mixology in London
For a deeply profound experience in a stunning, possibly abandoned site, Punchdrunk is the queen of immersive theatre companies. If they are ever doing anything in London, scram to book tickets because its company comprises some of the U.K.’s most innovative performers and profound storytelling, blending classical texts with modern, physical theatre techniques. They describe the audience’s feeling of liberation while being in the show: “free to encounter the installed environment in an individual imaginative journey, the choice of what to watch and where to go is theirs alone.” In doing this, they invert the balance of power. You use it as you please.
We often forget the childlike joy of not having a plan, of not knowing what to expect, and of adventuring on. Immersive theatre offers such thrills, but with delicious food and performers in outrageous costume, coming right up to you with quips and questions. Indulge them: you’re masked after all, and you can be anyone you want to be. You take off your heels, resting your feet from the frenzy of dancing, hoping that the spontaneity and lightness you found will stay. The power of immersive theatre is not only in its ability to whisk you away, but in its ability to return you to your city safely, but transformed.
For more ideas on Do, Dine and Spend in London and beyond, visit our Destinations page