London’s West End is second only to New York’s Broadway as the global capital of stage theatre, and while it continues to thrive, a different kind of theatre has been steadily growing in the capital: immersive experiences.
Here, the fourth wall is smashed into a million pieces as the boundaries between the actors and audience are completely ignored and those who used to be idle onlookers are dragged into the heart of the action.
The Crystal Maze
Address: 10-14 White Lion Street, N1 9PD
Nearest Tube Station: Angel (Northern Line)
That’s right, the hit TV show from the 90s has been resurrected and this time, you can actually be part of the fun and finally fulfill that childhood dream of setting foot in the infamous crystal dome.
In case you never saw the show, the experience sees you and up to seven friends face a variety of challenges that test your skill, mental and physical ability over four adventure time zones, each with their own unique theme: Aztec, Industrial, Futuristic and Medieval.
For each successfully completed challenge, your team earns one crystal. The more crystals you collect, the more time you get in the final challenge, the crystal dome, where your team must gather as many gold tickets as possible whilst powerful fans blow them around.
The experience is intensely faithful to the TV show, from the set design and brilliantly silly persona of the hosts to the frustratingly clever games. Time Out described it as ‘perfect’, while the London Evening Standard reckoned that the ‘exhilarating ride is worth every penny’.
Understandably, demand for tickets is high and dates can be sold out months in advance, but plan your trip to London in good time and you should be able to make a session on this once-in-a-lifetime experience work.
The whole experience lasts around two hours and participants must be aged 13 or over. Some games have height restrictions and due to the strenuous activity involved, pregnancy prohibits participation.
Faulty Towers: The Dining Experience
Address: Amba Hotel Charing Cross and Kingsway Hall Hotel, WC2B 5BX
Now in its fourth year in London’s West End, Faulty Towers: The Dining Experience is another gleaming nugget of immersive theatre based on an iconic TV show from way back when.
This production isn’t based on any specific episode or situation from the show. Instead, it is inspired by Basil, Cybil and Manuel and the ridiculous scenarios they find themselves in, with around two-thirds of the show being improvised.
Additionally, the experience has no ties or involvement from John Cleese nor the BBC, something both parties have been keen to stress in the past.
However, that won’t stop fans of the original show from lapping up this loving and worthy tribute, where the audience are the diners with a full three-course meal served throughout the show’s two-hour duration.
Fawlty Towers is widely regarded as one of the greatest comedies to come out of the UK, and this live experience has been met with similarly glowing reviews too.
It is currently running at two hotels: Amba Hotel Charing Cross on The Strand, and Kingsway Hall Hotel on Great Queen Street.
Fast-paced street games have quickly become a big thing in London, and City Dash is one of the stand-out scavenger hunts in the UK capital right now.
Players are given one hour to crack cryptic clues and find as many hidden codes as possible without being spotted by the game’s patrolling guards. Up to 100 players can take part in a single game and success is as much about stealth, cunning, good teamwork and solid map-reading as much as raw speed. Time Out likened it to ‘living in an N64’.
Based in Camden, the high-energy hunt is played now in more than a dozen cities around the world. You’ll need a decent pair of shoes and at least one smartphone per team to take part and there’s no minimum age restriction with kids as young as eight joining in.
Every major city has at least a few escape rooms now so when it’s done well, like with Time Run in South Hackney, it’s well worth commending.
Designed for three to six players, this self-proclaimed ‘ultimate escape game experience’ will take you through multiple time periods and various forgotten worlds on a quest for the Lance of Longinus – an object of unfathomable power.
Anyone with fond memories of Knightmare and other physical kids’ game shows from the 80s and 90s will lap Time Run right up. However, time isn’t exactly on your side; it’s only on until the end of February.
Goosebumps Alive and Goosebumps Kids
The original Goosebumps books by R.L. Stine were aimed at kids and young teenagers but the organisers behind bringing the books to life stress that this new immersive experience isn’t for youngsters: “Leave the kids at home,” they advise, “this is the Goosebumps of grown up fears”.
Goosebumps Alive is billed as a twisted modern update of the 90s cult horror series that will turn your childhood fears into adult nightmares.
If coming face to face with a killer scarecrow, haunted mask, deranged scientist or being buried alive sounds like fun, then this spine-tingling promenade show is for you.
There is a less intense child-friendly iteration of the live Goosebumps experience though. Goosebumps Kids may be 50 minutes of fun and adventure, aimed at those aged between five and 11 – but that doesn’t mean there won’t be ghouls, ghosts and monsters along the way.