This is a thrilling immersive show that takes you back in time to London in 1605. You will travel through lantern-lit tunnels in small groups to be brought to various destinations as scenes. These include the prison cells of the White Tower of the Tower of London you have just passed in real life – a pretty home of appealing Catholic sympathisers with priest holes in which you must hide. You will linger in the Duck and Drake pub where the rebel plotters used to meet (yes, do buy a drink) before arriving in the vaults of parliament where they had stashed a vast quantity of gunpowder to blow up the new Scottish king who had taken the throne two years earlier from Elizabeth. You will be accompanied by special effects and a succession of appealing and energetic actors who might sway your opinions as they present you with a conundrum from the benefit of looking back across history. Will you decide, as a group, to link yourself with the rebel plotters or will you be spies betraying them for the crown, knowing the peace the stranger king brought? This decision will affect the show you see.
The accomplished, creative team of writer, Danny Robins, former Olivier nominee, and director, Hannah Price, have made the journeys between the live scenes historically stunning by the use of virtual reality. Sit on a swing or hop into a rowing boat, put on headsets and be transported back in time. Escape the tower on an extended and exciting rope journey (as happened to a priest, but slower), travelling virtually with Guy Fawkes (played by Tom Felton) through the dangerous shipping of the Port of London as you transport barrels of gunpowder to blow up parliament under the stars on his last night of freedom. There is amazement and poignancy there. Finally watch the King, safe in Westminster Hall, before experiencing London in danger through the ages, bombers going overhead, and Guy Fawkes as a ghost. Hero or villain? Despite the known failure of the treason plot and the violence and duplicity of the time the show is never bleak or too much to bear, it is energising.
And this show is more than special effects spiking adrenalin. It asks questions relevant to our contemporary life from the perspective of our modern attitudes. What is the historical worth of causes that cost those their lives? Is the chance of changing the line of history worth it? What role do persecution and ostracisation in society play in causing violent rebellion? What are your own values about the loss of life? How do your family’s antecedents influence you? Why do we still commemorate the failure of the Catholic plot with Bonfire Night after more than 400 hundred years? What do you feel about the monarchy after the Jubilee?
Alden Gregory, the curator of buildings at Historic Royal Palaces, has taken on the role of historical advisor working with the show to create stunning reproductions of the city and the Tower of London, even recreating lost buildings there. It’s a lifetime experience to be transported back in time in this way, just yards from the Tower where the action starts. At the end of the show what is authentic and what is not is described for those who like to know.
The violence of the time is sensitively enough treated to be tolerated even by the most squeamish. You also have the option of putting up your hand if at any time you feel uncomfortable and you will be straight away extracted. The production does not recommend itself for under 12’s but it is definitely terrific for everyone else, including history buffs, tourists and those looking for a theatrical thrill with substance. Maybe you will want to go twice, choosing the other team next time or, perhaps you will want to do it all again just the same. Accessible needs can be accommodated.
Review by Marian Kennedy
Step inside history’s most daring conspiracy
London, 1605. A city divided. The fuse of rebellion is lit. The peace of the nation balances on a knife edge…
Step into a world where spies and informants hide in every shadow.
Your mission is to go undercover and unmask the mysterious figures behind history’s most infamous plot. But when you’re surrounded by ‘traitors’ who can you trust?
London’s biggest new attraction is now open in Tower Vaults at the Tower of London, in collaboration with Historic Royal Palaces
This multi-sensory adventure is written by Olivier nominee Danny Robins and Creative Direction by stage director and multi BAFTA award-nominated games performance director Hannah Price
The Gunpowder Plot is the latest immersive experience from Layered Reality, the award-winning producers of the Jeff Wayne’s The War of The Worlds: The Immersive Experience
Virtual Reality provided by award winning VR studio Figment Productions, headed by Simon Reveley
Inspired by Historic Royal Palaces research
Cast of over 50 digital actors alongside over 20 live actors create a truly hybrid theatrical experience