Saturday, April 28, 2018

Event: Somnai

Somnai is an immersive theatrical experience that has been running in London for a couple of months. Initial reviews were negative with reports of technical failures in the equipment and the overall experience being disjointed. We'd bought our tickets ages ago so as we got nearer the date we were hoping the initial teething issues would be resolved.

The premise is that you're visiting a medical laboratory to improve the value of your sleep and to understand your dreams. Donning a wristband, fitbit, robe and sleep socks you start the tests before meeting a guide who takes you through the majority of the experience and tells you the story about a child and their shadow which underpins the experience.

Through the process you go through a number of visual shows using a combination of projections and a lot of virtual reality and there are some very well themed rooms too as the experiment takes a slightly darker turn.

Overall I really enjoyed the experience, the VR worked really well for me, and none of the group encountered the technical issues that led to bad reviews at the start of the run. Another visual effect also worked really well for me too, if a bit trippy (we commented that the visual people must have taken a lot of LSD to be inspired for this). Be aware that if you're wearing glasses the headsets can press a bit but the people setting them up were very efficient and quick at making the adjustments.

Our guide was great, weaving our responses to some of her questions into the experience. It's always nice when you're called out by name during the experience and encouraged to do well through the challenges. 

The experience is pretty linear but features one section where a number of the group are separated from the rest and undergo a slightly difference experience. Within the journey to reunite there's a decision that needs to be made that gives an alternative route through the experience, and a reason to revisit.

At the end you complete the process before having the opportunity to enjoy some drinks in a nicely themed bar that changes appearance and menu every 30 minutes. The cocktails and tech displayed here, some of which is done through an app on your phone, were a nice way to end the visit.

I noted two areas where things could be improved. Firstly the arriving into the centre could be done better. We found ourselves inadvertently stumbling into the bar at the end of experience and the wrong side of the cloak room before being told we should just have waited in the lobby, yet there was no indication to do that. Secondly one of the later rooms implies there's a challenge to find a key, but we seemed to leave the room without finding it. For those of us who like exploratory elements in our immersive theatre experiences, this was a bit of a disappointment to not get the satisfaction of completing a task.

In summary we enjoyed the event and would like to go back, if only to see what lies beyond the other door. Once again, this isn't Punch Drunk, that's going to be too hard to better, but it is high up the leaderboard of interactive theatre experiences in London.
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