Sensory Overload

Sensory Overload

craving a night out with a twist?  immersive experiences are designed to make spectators an integral part of the action, challenging perceptions and heightening the senses. so leave your inhibitions at the door and step right in


For anyone who’s ever dreamt about starring in their favourite movie, Secret Cinema blurs the line between fantasy and reality by recreating completely immersive movie sets as  a backdrop to screen popular flicks. Audiences may be transported to the 1950s fictional town of Hill Valley in Back to the Future or a Moroccan bar in Casablanca. Everyone is encouraged  to dress up and get into character, and that’s before the opening credits even start to roll. Phones are forbidden and locations are top secret, heightening the intensity. 


It’s no longer enough to sit in  the dress circle and expect to be entertained.
Next-generation theatre audiences are hungry for a challenging experience that allows them to become part of the action, rather than mere observers. From Faust to Shakespeare, production company Punchdrunk’s brand of immersive theatre allows the audience to migrate at whim through  a series of sets decorated in minute detail.

Their cult-hit Sleep No More, based on Macbeth, transforms three New York warehouses into a 44-room ‘hotel’ styled in the film-noir genre. Wearing Venetian masks, audiences can follow a particular character or explore  the set and observe different characters. Since the action happens simultaneously, it ensures each person’s perception is totally unique, offering a rare chance to connect with the performers or simply be a voyeur. One character might be in the bath, another wandering through a forest. How to approach them is a personal choice – all that’s required is an open mind.


Stroll past a warehouse crammed with scenesters in London’s East End  at the crack of dawn and you’d think it was the end of an all-night party. Wrong. Now stressed city workers can start their day with the ultimate endorphin buzz: a tee-total morning rave before heading to the office.  UK company Morning Gloryville have recently launched their conscious collective dance experiences in  11 cities worldwide. Anyone can turn  up at 6.30am and hit the dancefloor. There are no rules or complicated dance routines to learn, just plenty of Lyrca. Glowsticks optional.


Mind-bending interactive installations on an epic scale are designed to challenge visitors’ perceptions of traditional ‘stand  and stare’ art exhibitions at  Digital Revolution. This festival-style exhibition, which has just finished a 10-week run at London’s Barbican and is transferring to Stockholm on 24 October, brings together immersive art works in celebration of the digital art world. Artists Usman Haque and Dot Samsen, from interactive event company Umbrellium, have created an impressive 3D light field that allows visitors to shape and manipulate light on their own terms. Visitors can even contribute their own digital artworks to the exhibition in situ while a captivating 3D shadow puppet play allows audiences to step  up and direct the action. Now,  everyone can become the artist.


Ultraviolet by Paul Pairet in Shanghai is often described as avant-garde dining on an acid-trip, appealing to the five senses. All  22 courses are synchronised with 360° projections around the room, transforming diners’ surroundings  with each dish. Scents enhancing  the olfactory experience are wafted around, and the food (think foie gras cigarettes with edible ash) elevates gastronomy to a new level.


At Gingerline supper club, guests are texted the name of an East London line station one hour beforehand  and instructed to follow directions  to a top secret venue where they receive a four-course meal and themed entertainment. In the past, guests have been checked in by starship flight attendants for an intergalactic night of gourmet space food and feasted in a submarine 20,000 leagues under the sea.

  • Words: Bethan King

  • Photography: Emli Bendixen, Matthew G Lloyd, Getty Images, Alice Peperell