Beer Brewers (and Wimbledon Tennis sponsors) Stella Artois have teamed up with exceptional immersive theatre company Les Enfants Terribles to create The Time Portal, an immersive theatre brand experience in East London during Wimbledon 2016.
It’s a strange concept, but a successful one. Those seeking deep, meaningful drama will inevitably leave unfulfilled. Those seeking adventure, laughter and really rather riotous fun will love the installation.
On arrival in a small bar, we meet a young tennis fanatic who has invented a time machine that will take us back to 1877 to visit an early incarnation of Wimbledon, in which his many times great Grandad wins Wimbledon glory.
The audience seem a bit skeptical, but off into a well-built time machine we go! After some moving and shaking we arrive in (a very loosely defined) Victorian London with a mission on our hands – find a new tennis request for Mr Spencer Gore after breaking his old one with our time machine (our bad.)
The setting for Victorian London is excellent and Les Enfants Terribles have done a tremendous job in bringing to life this dark, side-streeted adventure. We meet a sideshow owner, I get chosen to have my palm read in a very eerie tent and then tasks are assigned to us by the variety of characters; some of us learn the art of pick pocketing and others learn the art of detection.
There’s so much energy here – and a lot of hectic activity. Historians will be quite dismayed at the mismatch of timelining and worlds colliding in the production (pretty sure Sherlock Holmes didn’t investigate the Jack the Ripper murders) but it is a lot of fun.
The experience culminates with free drinks of – what else – Stella Artois and the chance to lounge in a truly modern bar whilst Wimbledon highlights play around us. My friend and I don’t plan on staying long, but the energy of the adventure is infectious and we end up staying till closing with new friends we made during our trip back in time.
I’m inherently suspicious of marketing experiences dressed up as immersive theatre events, but this one is a master class in how to create and execute an engaging and enjoyable brand experience. I wasn’t a Stella drinker before – and definitely wasn’t the day after – but I just might be now.