Immersive theatre has always intrigued me but it’s not something that I’ve tried. I think my own social insecurities have always held me back. I never really want to be centre of attention. I know this might seem like shocking news to some of you. You’re the chosen ones, feel special ok? Haha.
When I read about Somnai* and its combination of immersive theatre and VR my interest was piqued. Well, I say I read about it. I didn’t read much, to be honest. I watched a little video and then refused to look into it anymore because I didn’t want to know all about it before going in.
Somnai is about lucid dreaming and learning to delve into your subconscious. It’s about opening your mind to things you didn’t think possible. You’re entering a sleep study that will teach you how to harness the power of your dreams.
Upon arrival, we popped our PJs on (this is by no means a necessity, we just thought we’d get into character a bit more) and were given our patient ID wristbands and heart monitors. We had premium tickets and so were taken two by two into a white room to be scanned and processed before being asked to remove our shoes and pop on a dressing gown ready for our sleep experience.
I don’t really want to give too much away because I really enjoyed the aspect of not know what would happen next. There are three sections where you have to wear a VR headset (and backpack in one). They are all very different experiences though. There was one area where we were walking around and although my head knew I was safe, there were a few moments that took a bit of a leap of faith. It’s hard to convince your brain that what your eyes are seeing isn’t real sometimes.
There were a few times when I felt like we’d just been left in a holding area and they were the times the spell started to break. With people entering every ten minutes or so it’s not surprising that they need some holding areas but maybe they need a little bit more thought added to them. Either that or spread the time slots out a little more.
Once our Somnai sleep study was over and we were stirred from our hospital beds it was time to hit the bar. Surprise surprise, this was one of my favourite parts of the night. No, not just because I got a free cocktail (thanks to that premium ticket) but because the lights and theme change every 15/30 minutes. It’s really cool. The cocktail menu is concise but the cocktails are good and there are some sharing platters available too if you get hungry.
I’d advise downloading the app. Your drink is served on a special coaster so, when you look at it through the app you see augmented reality. This was a nice little touch. Also in the app was the scan of my head rendered as a 3D image. That was a bit unnerving and there is a section that should have had the details captured by my heart rate monitor. Sadly, that didn’t work for me, must have been a technical hitch somewhere. I’m a bit sad about that because I’d have been interested to see how it changed.
All in all, it felt kind of like being in an episode of Black Mirror. And as I sat at the bar I couldn’t quite work out if that was a good thing. I decided it was and that the weird spacey feeling I had when it was over was the mark of it doing exactly what it says on the tin. And doing it well.
Appointments for Somnai are available now and are priced at £35 for a regular ticket and £47 for a premium one. The premium ticket includes the head scan and your first cocktail.
I will say that I had one hell of a headache once I got home. I only had one cocktail so it wasn’t down to that. It was a warm night and I could have been dehydrated but I just wanted you to know it also may have been caused the VR. So it’s something to keep in mind.
*I was invited to Somnai by DotDotDot with Love London Pop Ups but all thoughts and words are my own.