Gunpowder Plot at the Vaults
An ambitious experience with a lot of potential, The Gunpowder Plot would almost be a worthwhile experience, but several serious issues hold it back from being truly great.
Most importantly: Tom Felton doesn’t really star in it. He makes a few virtual appearances – among other actors – but the virtual aspects of the performance are so short that it can scarcely be said to feature him, let alone present him as the face of the experience; the live actors are far more present and impressive. Indeed they are fantastic and successfully manage to immerse the audience in an engaging experience.
The plot involves the audience, who, as newly imprisoned Catholics, are tasked by Lady Cecil to act as spies to identify the conspirators behind the gunpowder plot of 1605. At various points they are asked to hide from Protestant guards, lie to conspirators, escape from the Tower of London and to take a long boat ride along the Thames, disguised as plague doctors. Everything is centred around the question: is violent action justified for a good cause? As part of the experience, they are asked to vote on whether they would support Guy Fawkes or stay loyal to the crown.
Unfortunately a lot of the VR technology is a letdown. Occasionally they will fail and show a loading screen; at othertimes the graphics glitch and viewers find themselves floating through a wall, or smudged screens block their view entirely. Some of the virtual scenes are done nicely – notably the boat ride – but for the most part they feel rather weak or occasionally even broken.
At its best, The Gunpowder Plot feels like the London Dungeon with less humour and a more consistent and serious storyline. This can be a good thing – if one is lucky to have an upbeat group that enjoys participating, the whole experience can be very enjoyable. At its worst, however, it’s a show struggling with the technology and relying on the performances of the live actors alone – and with prices starting at £40 for tickets during the week and work hours, it’s not self-evident that it’s actually worth it.
Nonetheless: the good bits are good, the acting is solid and, with a nice ambience that takes the audience back to 1605, a few tweaks to the technology could make it a powerful experience.
Gunpowder Plot is at the Vaults until 4th September 2022. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch a teaser for the show here: