Review by Daz Gale
Did you know there was an old bauble factory hidden in Waterloo? Anyone who has frequented the Vaults there before may be more familiar with it for it in another form but this time around, it has been transformed into a place full of magic and wonder as Wishmas opens for its debut season there. Aimed with small children in mind, I channelled my inner big kid (that wasn't difficult) to see the world of Wishmas through their eyes, and boy did it make me wish I was a kid again myself.
Created by Secret Cinema who have wowed audiences around the country with their creative approach to theatrical experiences, Wishmas is a 60 minute walkthrough adventure (though don't worry, you get to sit for more than half of it) which gives you a tour of the bauble factory as you discover how wishes are made and hopefully hold the key to saving Wishmas altogether.
Starting in the sorting office, you meet the first of several wishkeepers and are taught how wishes are made and the significance of robins before being whisked off on to a train (that flies, of course) in a sequence that made my jaw drop as an adult (apparently) so I can only imagine how it must have been for kids. With technology creating a brilliant simulator, you truly believe you are flying above the clouds in a glorious sequence. A couple of puzzles and tasks are then required in different rooms to save Wishmas before you meet that iconic festive character himself. No, not Michael Buble. I of course mean Father Christmas.
I say I can only imagine what this experience must feel like for a kid - I didn't need to. Watching the sense of wonder on children's faces as the experience took shape really was beautiful to witness and reminded me just how crucial it is that children have the chance to experience live theatre in various shapes in what I'm sure will be the first encounter with it for some. Yes, the experience is clearly designed with children in mind but it doesn't forget about the big kids too, getting them involved and even including a very blue joke which would have definitely gone over the kids heads but made me choke on my hot chocolate.
Wishmas has been beautifully designed to create a world in itself. Importantly though, a lot of care and detail has gone into crafting the story so every element serves a purpose and doesn't feel like it is solely included to kill time. As a piece of theatre it was impressive how easy it was to immerse yourself into the world. Getting the tone just right so it is entertaining for children but never crosses a line to scare them, it captures the Christmas spirit perfectly.
As my adventure came to an end and spoiler alert* Wishmas was saved, we were taken to a room where we got to make our own baubles. While I may not be changing my career to be a full time bauble maker (and for that we should all be thankful) it was a great touch and a way to encourage creativity while giving everybody a memento to remember their Wishmas experience in years to come. There is also the opportunity to meet Father Christmas in a one on one session. While I didn't get that pleasure myself, children will be delighted to meet the man who has appeared on more stages than Michael Ball. Adults will also be delighted with the Christmas market you experience as you leave which features more than just a gift shop.
Wishmas is a glittering new addition to the London theatre scene, instantly creating a new loveable tradition for families at Christmas. While it is assuredly better with children present, there was still plenty to keep me entertained and bring out my inner child. Throughout the experience you aim to ensure no wish is ever forgotten - with this truly fabulous experience that will ensure you leave wishing it could be Wishmas everyday, there is no way I could ever forget my Wishmas adventure.
Wishmas plays at the Old Bauble Factory, Waterloo until 7th January 2024. Tickets from https://www.wishmas.co.uk/
Photos by Matt Crockett