Sunday, 20 June 2021

REVIEW: Doctor Who: Time Fracture at ImmersiveLdn / UNIT HQ

Immersive Everywhere have created the world of Doctor Who under the pavements of the West End. Located near Bond Street, Time Fracture is the latest project from a cultural institution; the most famous time-traveller in history! 

Before I delve into this review, I feel the need to make a few disclaimers: 

Firstly, I am a massive nerd and very proud of the fact. I have been a Doctor Who (and Torchwood… and Sarah Jane Adventures… and Class) fan since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. So I make absolutely no apologies for being utterly awe-struck by this production. Secondly, I will follow in River’s footsteps (you were warned in the first disclaimer!) and avoid spoilers. With that in mind, I may end up talking in riddles slightly! 

The immersive experience begins from the moment you’ve had your temperature taken outside UNIT HQ. UNIT (Unified Intelligence Taskforce) soldiers are there to ‘greet’ us before we are ushered inside and given a briefing by their boss. We are told that we are volunteers, recommended by The Doctor, who have come to save all of time and space. A bomb was dropped during the blitz and it has created fractures in time which we are here to investigate and, hopefully, fix. As we stepped out of the briefing room and into the beating, beeping, whirring heart of UNIT, I was blown away by the production values. The huge room is kitted out like a mission control centre at NASA. We are passed around various lab-coated doctors and given more information about the time fracture. Eventually, we plucky scientists are thrust through the fracture and end up in some remarkable worlds. 

It is important to say at this point that, due to the nature of immersive theatre, it is impossible to see everything. I’ve said it before (here, actually:; the hankering for more and the questions of “what did I miss?” And “where didn’t I get to go?” All come with the territory. So I can only talk about the path that I was on for the evening. 

The group divides into two locations: Alien Marketplace, and Elizabeth’s Court. I ended up in the dingy alien marketplace which is filled with trinkets and props from various episodes and stumbled into Brolls’ shop. Brolls (played by Maxwell Tyler) is a wheeler-dealer who can get anyone anything they need. Think Del Boy with a pigs head and you’ve got the idea. Here, my Dad and I (my guest for the evening) were tasked to meet certain people, find certain items, and have a bit of an explore of the marketplace. Tyler was one of the most engaging actors of the night. His performance was energetic, dynamic, and brilliantly funny. After meeting Brolls, we were introduced to the stunning, but borderline psychopathic, Zoria (Ivy Corbin). Zoria, who walks a very thin line between good and evil, takes us through another fracture into Elizabeth’s court. There we meet more characters from history and even get a glimpse into Torchwood. 

The Torchwood set, split in half by a time fracture, is a wonderfully detailed and clever room. With two eras smashed up together by the fracture, on one side we see the original Torchwood as created by Queen Victoria after her interaction with the Doctor and a nip from a Warewolf in series two, and on the other is the famous subway set of Torchwood 3 in Cardiff. This is just another example of the ingenuity and detail that has gone into this production. 

After a scary encounter with some all-too-familiar aliens, we run for our lives through an open door, along a corridor and into the bar for the interval. This run has to be one of my favourite moments of the whole show. Escaping the aliens and running down this corridor with colourful lights shining the way, and Murray Gold’s blood-pumping I Am The Doctor thumping through the speakers for a short moment made me feel like a real superhero, saving the world with Matt Smith’s incarnation of The Doctor. This is not the only time that Murray Gold’s famous music is heard. The music team of composer and producer Danny Nolan, music content creator and additional songs by Barnaby Race, period music composers Louise Duggan & Zands Duggan, and sound designer Luke Swaffield, really bring the world alive with original songs, recognisable themes, and expert design. 

Our interval drinks are hosted at the bar onboard spaceship ZZ1, where we are treated to the stunning, and I mean STUNNING, voices of a Silurian and a Crespallion. After 30 minutes and a glass of wine or two, we were taken on the next stage of our journey by a Time Lord Guide. These characters, inspired by various Doctor’s from the series 57-year history through costume and mannerisms, are there to push us in the right direction and help the story along where needed, as well as being a part of the action and narrative in their own right. A helpful addition, especially as the story can get a little lost or confused along your journey. It’s clear that the performers know the story back-to-front and inside out, but it often got lost in favour of action or character introductions. 

The story then continues through a dark corridor where we meet some other enemies of The Doctor in a terrifying encounter, and then we arrive at the national gallery, in front of the painting Gallifrey Falls No More, before being thrust into the heart of a Time Lord debate, where the whole story comes to a head. 

With cameos from well-known aliens, and even more well-known faces and voices, this production is a real treat for any Whovian. Every performer was engaging and engrossing, but another special mention has to go to Tyler and Corbin for their enthralling performances. Rebecca Brower’s production design is intricate and skilled. She expertly pulls inspiration from across the ‘Whoniverse’ and, together with Art Director Ryan O’Conner, and Associate Designer Hannah Postlethwaite, created a fully immersive and meticulous world for us to inhabit. Tom Maller’s direction and Daniel Dingsdales writing have come together to create a clever story with twists and turns that allows the audience to truly go on a journey of discovery. Whilst the story is clever and interesting, it often gets lost and becomes confusing or muddled. Paired with a sound design that favours atmospherics over dialogue and you end up with significant moments becoming a struggle to understand. However, as the show reaches its climax the narrative becomes clearer and the blanks are filled in. 

A special mention should also go to the man with the greatest title in the show: Lore Consultant. James Goss has ensured that the Who-Canon has been followed and that, to fans, the world feels true to the BBC version. 

Time Fracture will go down as one of the best theatrical experiences I have ever had the pleasure to be a part of. Engaging, exciting, and utterly enthralling.

Review by Max Topliss

Rating: ★★★★★

Seat: N/A | Price of Ticket: £59.95

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