Watching telly from the comfort of your sofa? So passé. In recent years, some of the most-watched television shows around have been gradually springing out of the screen, and turning up in the form of ‘immersive’ experiences. From having a pint at Moe’s Tavern from The Simpsons or slobbing out on the Friends couch, to chowing down on Twin Peaks’ damn fine cherry pie in a Lynchian diner, the interactive options are limitless.
Whether you’re wallowing in a post-Love Island sized hole in your viewing schedule, or missing Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s twisted asides to the camera in Fleabag, there’s something out there for you.
Here’s a rundown of the best upcoming events – get ready to play the lead role in your go-to show.
By order of the Peaky Blinders, an official themed music festival is coming to Birmingham. Anna Calvi – who wrote the musical score for the forthcoming fifth series – is booked to play, along with the likes of Primal Scream, Slaves, and Nadine Shah. Selected for their certain ‘Peaky’ musical je ne sais quoi, the event goes beyond live music. According to the show’s writer Steven Knight, there’s set to be Q&A sessions with as many cast members as possible. The Digbeth site will also host immersive theatre, bespoke ballet, wrestling, and poetry. The whole thing, timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the first episode’s 1919 start date, takes place September 14-15. Flat caps at the ready.
Dig out your gaudiest bomber jackets and tune up the walkie-talkies – Stranger Things’ hometown of Hawkins, Indiana is coming to London from November 2019 til Febuary 2020. The whole thing is being hosted by immersive pros Secret Cinema, who have brought everything from The Shawshank Redemption to Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel to life. Past events have been very interactive with a huge cast of actors getting you involved at every opportunity, and this should be similar. Ahead of the event, anyone heading down will be asked to think about what character they will be in Hawkins, and will need to turn up dressed up accordingly – it’s like a Cluedo-themed dinner party gone rogue. If you reckon you’ve got what it takes to kill a mind flayer, this one’s for you.
If you’ve ever stuck on an episode of Blue Planet in order to navigate through a particularly debilitating hangover, you’ll be well aware of the soothing powers of David Attenborough’s voice. He’s been narrating on the EastEnders dramas of the animal kingdom since 1952, and the wildlife filmmaker’s work continues to the present – he’s still voicing documentaries at the age of 93.
Most people would probably jump at the chance to join Sir Dave on one of his adventures, and now you can. Well, sort of. Limina Immersive – a virtual reality theatre in Bristol – is currently hosting David Attenborough’s Great Barrier Reef Dive VR. Get practising your best narrator voices now – the event runs until August 18.
The Great British Bake-Off
Attention avid bakers who find themselves yelling things like “put the tempered chocolate in the fridge!” as they watch Great British Bake-Off. In South London there’s now a very detailed recreation of TV’s most stressful marquee where – aided by a ‘top baker’ – punters can get a slice of the action. Bakers have 90 minutes to complete a technical challenge, and compete head-to-head with the rest of the tent. Essentially, it’s the show, but without Paul Hollywood. A privilege worth paying for.
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It’s all very well being served up a cocktail that has been lovingly shaken and stirred by an attentive mixologist, but at London’s ABQ aspiring Walter Whites can don bright yellow boiler suits and ‘cook’ drinks in a well-equipped RV. Admittedly it’s not a very faithful recreation of the show. Instead of teaching people to cook meth – which would be very questionable – you’ll probably get to pump some dry ice into a few drinks. They call it an ‘Immersive molecular cocktail bar’. Translation: the fun bits from Chemistry, for tipsy adults in silly outfits.
The Love Island Experience
Developed a habit of screeching I GOTTA TEXT! every time your phone pings? Missing your regular dose of muggy behaviour? For the whole of August, a life-sized replica of ‘the villa’ will be in situ at Greenhithe shopping centre in Kent, if that’s where your head’s at…
The clue’s in the name, really. This is an entire event dedicated to New York’s best known pals Joey, Rachel, Ross, Chandler, Phoebe and Monica. Festival is perhaps pushing the definition a little bit – there’s a merch stand, and a clutch of themed food stalls, basically – but as an extended selfie opp, it’s not to be sniffed at. There’s a replica Central Perks coffee shop! Joey and Chandler’s football table is there! You can sit on Monica’s couch, and even recreate the whole opening sequence. That’ll bag you at least 30 likes on Instagram.
Weirdly, there’s also going to be a ‘festive’ themed Friendsfest in East London if you fancy being even more niche in your Friends appreciation.
From August 20 – September 14, actual Phoebe Waller-Bridge from the telly will be performing the original monologue which inspired Fleabag, on stage at the West End’s Wyndham’s Theatre. Immersive is a bit of a stretch for this one, and clambering up on stage will probably result in swift removal by security. But as a last chance to bid farewell to one of TV’s best comedies in recent memory, with the show’s main character eyeballing you from the stage, it can’t be beaten. Tickets for the show sold out months ago, but there’s still hope – each day there will be a lottery, with a handful of extra places up for grabs. *Peers at camera* keep those fingers crossed.