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The Immersive Experience
Why Dr Who isn’t as emotionally engaging as contemporary danceThere’s been quite a buzz about the walk-through Doctor Who Experience in the industry and Trip Advisor shows many visitors are clearly delighted with it. Being more of a closet Dr Who fan than I’d admit on a blog (!) I was quite excited that I eventually managed to get round to going the day before it closed in London. But I was very disappointed and I think I’ve worked out why …
We were promised an immersive experience with a walk-through show and an interactive exhibition. All the promised elements were there - the walk through had great production values and Matt Smith (the current Doctor, who leads visitors through the experience via a recorded film) deserves a medal for his energetic effort to generate a sense of realism and excitement, as much as that’s possible from the confines of a small screen in the corner of the room.
But I was disappointed because I was left emotionally unengaged and therefore “un-immersed” – I hadn’t been scared, surprised, frightened or made to laugh (though the witty script did make me smile.) Every time Matt Smith sparked a bit of atmosphere, it was all dissipated as we trooped from one ‘room’ to the next.
And I know it doesn’t have to be like this. In my experience the arts are miles ahead in creating immersive experiences which are deeply, emotionally engaging and memorable. I can still feel how I felt when I experienced Andre Gingras’s The Lindenmeyer System at Woking Dance Festival, in 2007. The audience was on the stage with the dancers and we were incorporated into the story - made to feel the disorientated and unsure emotions of the characters in the piece - as we were moved around by them during the performance. So just because a large number of people need to be manipulated from place to place, doesn’t mean that the sense of immersion in the experience has to be lost. I haven’t seen You Me Me Bum Bum Train (yes really, google it) but I gather it’s another amazing example of this.
For me, the Doctor Who Experience lacked the human touch that makes it seem real. In the end I think it was a tall order to ask the efforts of one person only seen on a small screen to outweigh the unconscious impact of being surrounded by 39 other ‘punters’, clutching their handbags and water bottles and who also haven’t managed to suspend their disbelief. A few actors planted amongst us could have really brought the experience alive and created the energy and unpredictability which would have got us all involved. Given the huge number of staff who were present and the clearly large budgets involved I think this would have been a really worthwhile investment to make the Doctor Who Experience ‘out of this world’!
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