You are a patient of the Somnai Institution, with an appointment that will take you deep into your own psyche. As a group of six you check in all worldly possessions in exchange for sleep trackers, bed socks and dressing gowns.
A chipper, rather robotic guide leads you through the different stages of immersion. First it’s all yogic breathing, reclining and sensory hypnosis, spread out through a series of imaginative and playful spaces. After deep relaxation and a bedtime story, it is time to dream.
With the help of ‘sleep masks’ you step into a surreal, subconscious landscape. It’s a wholly immersive experience, recreating exhilaration of soaring over the city, with the wind in your face and a lurching fear of falling in the pit of your stomach.
Though your logical mind knows these strange lands and bold leaps of faith are just a series of pixels, all your senses tell you otherwise. You can feel the boggy seabed underfoot and the heat of desert sun overhead and you can’t help but shudder or squeal as your fellow sleepers jump deeper into the disorientation.
The technology is thrilling, but the real impact of the show comes from the interplay between virtual reality and a more traditionally theatrical use of space and performance. As dreamers you must make a choice, which takes you into a nightmarish narrative played out through actors and unnervingly convincing sets. This sense of uncanny (and a few moments of heart-hammering horror) draws together the different themes and images into a coherent story.
Each journey is different, but all end up in an interactive bar, where projections and illuminations play with perceptions while you ‘wake up’ with a well-deserved drink.
As the first project from new London-based entertainment company dotdotdot, Sonmai is an ambitious debut. There hasn't been an immersive experience in London of such scale or audacity since Punchdrunk's The Drowned Man.
But this dreamy sleep experience delivers on its promise of immersion – and offers us a glimpse of the future of entertainment.
|What||Somnai immersive experience, London review|
|Nearest tube||Barbican (underground)|
01 Mar 18 – 03 Jul 18, 90 minute time slots, starting from 5:30pm
|Website||Click here to book now|