This review was originally written for The Public Review.
An alien craft has crashed in a car park and a temporary laboratory filled with scientists is set up around the craft. A tour has been arranged for visitors to see the crash site and their findings. There are a range of specimens, documents and videos for the tour and a disruptive audience member thrown in for good measure. This scenario contains all the ingredients of a good immersive theatre experience.
This show is part of the inTRANSIT festival set up by The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and is produced by the new immersive theatre company Immercity. The writing by Rosanna Mallinson is filled with details and the scientists and tour guides are all capable of answering the more obscure and inquisitive question. The science behind the script is sound and the reason why some of the creatures found on the crash site look similar to organisms on earth is well explained. There are some thoughtful points raised about human connections, advances in technology and human’s relationships with tools and objects.
Although the set and the props look a little cheap and slapdash, this is covered by the explanation that the lab was only built two weeks ago when the crash took place. Perhaps the format is the problem with different tour groups circulating through different rooms with a whistle signalling each group to move on. It results in a lot of waiting time to be filled by chatting and going off-script for the guides. Keeping the groups moving and occupied could help avoid the more in-depth scrutiny of the set. To be honest, this show requires suspension of disbelief to overlook the flaws and cracks, for example the crash site is on the second floor of a three storey car park but the ceiling is intact. As in many of these immersive experiences, you get out what you put in. The show also lacks atmosphere and a sense of danger which may be because of location and the bright early evening light.
The acting is mixed: our guide played by Rhiannon Hughes is excellent with her friendliness, ‘knowledge’ and she is absolutely charming. Also, James Barbour’s Head of Security and Mischa Resnick’s Moon Man Max are played with conviction. However, some of the scientists seem a little pedestrian but they do have to ‘investigate’ creatures made with silicone sealant and expansion foam.
The production is a mixed bag but one can imagine this can be great fun for younger audience and those less familiar with immersive theatre. As a fellow tourist new to this type of theatre exclaims towards the end: “I think they are all aliens…,” you can make your own mind up as to what she meant.