Fresh off the back of a few other impressive immersive experiences on their way to the UK next week, we’ve got another and it sounds incredible! The leaps and bounds in this type of setup has been fast, and I’m always up for anything that throws you into the middle of something that feels ‘real’, and blurs that fictional line we couldn’t always cross in the past – unless you’re involved in filmmaking, of course!
Opening 6th May 2022 in Tower Vaults at The Tower of London, with tickets on sale from 16 November, The Gunpowder Plot is setting itself up to be a thrilling new Layered Reality experience that combines live actors, virtual reality and multi-sensory special effects collide, to help audiences step back in time to the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, where they have an active role to play in one of the greatest stories and adventures in British history.
During your visit, you’ll try to infiltrate the plotters, earn their trust and then join them, with the experience taking place in a purpose-designed immersive theatre space in the Vaults opposite the Tower of London, last accessible to the public two decades ago, where much of the prelude to the Gunpowder Plot actually took place before Guy Fawkes’ very real torture and eventual death. Morbid, but fascinating.
In collaboration with Historic Royal Palaces, the project brings together an incredible team including director Hannah Price (trained at RADA and the Donmar, founder of Theatre Uncut, co-Artistic Director of King’s Head Theatre alongside Mark Ravenhill), acclaimed BAFTA-nominated writer Danny Robins (2.22: A Ghost Story), curator Alden Gregory (curator of Historic Buildings at the Historic Royal Palaces) and producer Tim Powell (Historic Royal Palaces).
A cultural revolution has been going on with new operators providing location-based experiences, using technology, in a far more immersive way than traditional theatre. Leading this new form of entertainment is the award-winning company Layered Reality, formerly known as dotdotdot, who have delivered more than 250,000 VR experiences and transported 60,000 people back to 1898 in their critically acclaimed Jeff Wayne Musical Version of The War of The Worlds: The Immersive Experience.
Layered Reality CEO Andrew McGuinness, had to say about their latest adventure:
“So when you’re stepping back into 1605, all of your senses are telling you that you’re there. Your eyes are seeing London as it was in 1605, you get the smells, you will for the first time see the Tower of London how it looked in 1605, and you’ll go down the Thames and see it as it was at that time. That’s what makes it so magical.”
The historically accurate depiction of the city and events is overseen by Alden Gregory of Historic Royal Palaces. It may be unusual to have a curator within a theatrical team, but Gregory’s role, within the challenge of enabling the creation of a whole 360-degree world in virtual reality, is much the same as it would be for an exhibition: to ensure that the experience is true to history and creates a sense of authenticity and understanding of what the past looked like.
“We’re pushing things to a whole new level, doing something that hasn’t been tried by museums before,” said Gregory. “We’re telling a story in an interesting new way, exploring new technology with new partners. Ultimately my role is making sure that what we do will be rooted in its history and in a sense of authenticity. We really want people to feel that they’ve been in 1605. It’s to make that experience as real as possible.”
That includes shifting away from the stereotypes of a filthy London swilling with sewage and animals running around, or of crumbling buildings and decay.
“We’ve all seen computer game graphics that give an impression of what medieval London might have looked like and we want to challenge that and create a much more realistic version of the past.”
The Gunpowder Plot opens May 2022 in Tower Vaults at the Tower of London. Tickets go on general sale on 19 November.
Register for the presale at gunpowderimmersive.com before 1pm on 12 November for an exclusive presale discount worth £10 and a chance to win VIP tickets.
Presale tickets are available from 16 November.