Hogwarts in the Snow – Harry Potter Warner Bros Studio Tour

Monday, December 29, 2014 0

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he temperature has dropped to hover around freezing, but still it refuses to snow in London. I shouldn’t complain too much, the sun is shining and the weather is perfect for staying indoors all snuggled up, which is exactly what I am doing right now.

My winter has not been completely snow free however, a couple of weeks ago I went to the Harry Potter Warner Bros Studio Tour, which has undergone a holiday makeover.

Since Warner Bros opened its doors to the Harry Potter sets, I have wanted to go. I have been a massive Harry Potter geek ever since my mum gave me the first book back in 2001. I’ve read all the books a number of times and I’ve seen all the movies. The movies, especially the first couple are far from perfect, but as soon as the theme tune starts playing, I get a tingle of excitement, they capture the magical world so wonderfully.

When the books finished at least we had a couple more years till all the movies came out, until it felt like the end of Harry Potter. In the few years since the last movie, I’ve felt like something was missing over the Christmas period.

What you get at the Warner Bros tour is a little taste of the magic. It’s incredible, as you see the real sets, costumes and props used over the years in all 8 movies. And until February 1st, it’s Christmas at Hogwarts! The Great Hall is beautifully decorated, the tables are covered with a feast and what was the highlight for me the model of the Hogwarts castle, which will be very familiar to any fans of the movies as it was used to film many outdoor scenes, is covered in snow!

I can keep talking or I can show you, I was surprised that they allowed us to take as many photos as we wanted and I did my best to capture as much as possible.

Hogwarts ModelHogwarts! In snow! The model is so beautiful.

PortraitsAll the portraits inside the castle

The Great HallThe feast in the Great Hall

Dumbledore

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The Boy Who Climbed Out Of His Face

Tuesday, August 26, 2014 2

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nother day, another immersive show… I ‘experienced’ (seeing doesn’t seem quite the right word, especially since a good part of it was in absolute darkness) Shunt’s The Boy Who Climbed Out Of His Face. A couple of years ago Shunt’s The Architects was perhaps my first immersive experience and I didn’t much like it, though I think that if I saw it now, I’d appreciate it a lot more. At the time I expected more of a point to my theatre, I also wasn’t used to all the nudity that is remarkably prevalent in immersive performances.

I went to The Boy Who Climbed Out Of His Face, partly because I liked the sound of the venue, (the Jetty at Greenwich, rather excitingly the easiest way to get to it is by boat or by air) with its promise of pop up food and drink as well as post show live music, partly because tickets only cost £10. The performance itself is billed as taking 45 minutes, though I think it took us just over half an hour from start to finish, so the additions of food, drink and entertainment are very welcome if you want to make a night of it. I’d recommend dressing warmly (where has the summer gone?) even though blankets are provided and nabbing one of the hammocks.

On the whole I really enjoyed the experience, it’s perfect if you want to dip your toes into immersive theatre and see if you like it, as it’s over pretty quickly if you don’t. I did like it, so my main complaint is that I greedily would have liked it to be a bit grander, with more rooms to explore. The concept is in the style of a promenade performance, every ten minutes a group of about a dozen or so people enter a series of rooms, cleverly build within old shipping containers and are faced with different bizarre scenarios in each room. It’s creepy and funny and better if you just go with it, don’t try to make any sense of it and have fun. The audience interaction is not extensive and in fact my favourite room was one with only a disembodied voice in it. A final warning, the performers wear frankly terrifying masks.

Rift’s Macbeth Review

Sunday, July 20, 2014 1

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have long bought into the immersive theatre craze, from a middling Minotaur performance in Bermondsey’s biscuit factory, to a rather fun exploration of King’s College London and Somerset House in DreamThinkSpeak’s In the Beginning was The End and Punch Drunk’s epic Drowned Man. But an overnight performance of Macbeth still came across somewhat daunting. 12 straight hours, could I handle that?! Well, with tickets from as little as £20 for a hard package (though I paid double that for the ‘Luxury’) in which you get dinner, a night’s accommodation, plus the show itself, compared to the astronomical prices of other immersive ventures *cough*secret cinema*cough* I figured I’d give it a go.

And I am very glad I did, though the sleepover gimmick felt just like that – a gimmick, the location, an imposing East London tower block, and the very talented cast kept me entertained throughout. Unlike other immersive performances I’ve seen, I am happy to say that this wasn’t a loose or symbolic reinterpretation, the play was there, in its entirety.

It starts with a passport check, as we get ready to enter a fictional Eastern European country named Borduria, its occupants, speaking with suspiciously Borat-like accents, serving as our guides into Macbeth’s fictional world. A concept that I wasn’t entirely sold on, as it seemed to add an unnecessary complication to the set up. Our phones are checked in, our pounds exchanged with Bordurian currency and our bags taken away from us.

The action begins immediately after, as we find ourselves in the middle of Macbeth and Banquo’s encounter with the witches in a dark and seriously spooky underground space. The moment is wonderful, and for me only matched in intensity by Macbeth’s decent into madness during the banquet scene and his second encounter with the witches. A good thing as it almost successfully distracts from the actual meal we are given, which includes a botched attempt at a borscht soup, probably one of the worst things I have ever tasted. (On the flip side, they were great with giving us water throughout and the drinks are a decent price, but I gotta say if you are staying overnight, bring snacks.) The final scene on the roof and the immediate build up to it, which I do not want to spoil is similarly tense as are a few breaks from the plot where the murderers get involved with the audience that feel truly frightening. Those are the moments where you know it’s not real, but you don’t quite believe it.

It’s not all great. A large part of the final act conveyed as ‘Breaking News’ via a flickering TV set is a major low point, and despite the advertised ‘all night’ set up, the action ends comfortably around midnight. After which, cast and audience alike congregates in the bar to spend the remainder of their hard earned Bordurian cash.

But despite its flaws, I had a pretty magical evening, which is hard to explain. It was perhaps aided by my lack of phone, i.e. any connection to the outside world, but at times I felt like I was truly transported to another land, where anything was possible.

I found out after that there are multiple casts looking after multiple groups, which must be a logistical nightmare and meant tightly timed toilet breaks, but was flawlessly executed as we not once crossed paths with anyone else. And I may be biased, but I think we lucked out with the best cast, Lowri James’ lady Macbeth and Humphrey Hardwicke’s Macbeth were both spectacular.

Other things to note:

  • Look out for the updated king’s portraits
  • Getting picked out as a murderer’s favourite is not a good idea
  • Be aware of nightly apparitions