It’s been billed as THE unmissable fantastical Christmas adventure of 2023. Shrouded in mystery with press photos only emerging recently – the magical world of Wishmas is finally here! But does it live up to expectations? And is it worth blowing the Christmas budget on? Here is a London Family’s honest Wishmas Review.
Disclaimer: We were gifted press tickets to this event but as always I am dedicated to giving you my full and honest opinion.
Wishmas is the brainchild of Elgiva Field of PunchDrunk notoriety and Secret Cinema. Known for innovation and imagination, this is the dream team to recreate an elves HQ, hidden in the forgotten vaults of Waterloo station.
Spread over five magical rooms, Wishmas is a walk-through immersive experience. Like Willy Wonka’s golden ticket holders, guests are led in groups through the unmistakable, candy cane striped lair of Kris Kringle. This 60 minute tour of Santa’s Wish factory is guided by the mysterious Wishkeepers – exquisitely styled elves played by a talented cast of actors.
What Happens at Wishmas? (Spoiler Alert)
We start in the sorting office where Pickle the Wishkeeper, complete with golden freckles and pointed ears, explains the business of collecting Christmas wishes. Here children will be transfixed by the neon baubles (wishes) which zoom along the walls in vacuum tunnels and wind down spiralling slides. Little puppet robins chirp along through the air on wires before ducking into their colourful bird houses against a backdrop of green and red presents piled high.
It’s an impressive start. Julie Landau’s design is a visual feat throughout with atmospheric lighting by Tim Mitchell and detailed touches by puppet specialist Charlie Tymms.
The story quickly takes a turn when during a train ride which dramatically takes flight (cleverly simulated by video designer Catherine Woodhouse) wishes are lost and we are given the mission to retrieve them.
From this point the experience becomes interactive to the delight of the young children onboard.
Two tasks follow aimed firmly at ages 3 -8yrs. The first takes place in the Merry Maps of Everywhere Room (a control room resembling the Octonauts HQ) eqiuipped with Reindeer routers – special equipment for locating those wishes. The boys loved this task which involved pressing buttons and locating puzzle pieces around the room.
Next is the room holding The Great Clock of Now . A similarly interactive task in this room of massive foam clock cogs where we were asked to spin the cogs as quickly as possible in what I think was an attempt to earn back time – (I had lost the plot by then) Again this was perfectly aimed at small children and their inexplicable love of turning wheels!
Do you meet Santa at Wishmas?
Father Christmas makes his appearance in the final room where we are led in a slightly paltry sing-a-long (with actions) to make it snow. (If audience participation is not your thing take this as your warning). The children were nonetheless enchanted by this convincing and charismatic Santa – although my 7yr old was suspicious that he didn’t have a big round belly! NB; A private Wishmas Meet and greet with Santa is available but will cost extra.
Our final stop was the bauble making workshop. Decked with long wooden tables and sweet jars of dried oranges, dried flowers, tinsel and beads, we wrote down our wishes and packed them up in our very own Christmas bauble. This was a lovely touch and meant the children left with a memento.
What age is Wishmas for?
The producers have clearly researched how to captivate a young audience although I do think the tag ‘for all ages’ is misleading. This is really a show for families with children under 10. If you are taking older kids or, god forbid, are thinking of this for a date – think again.
Trying to cast their nets for a wider audience may ultimately be the downfall of this show. The scripts are unnecessarily wordy and the story is hard to follow for most of the adults, let alone the children. For reporting purposes I listened intently and was still left bewildered. Luckily there are visual distractions in place, although for some of the younger children being asked to sit and listen for 10 mins was an ambitious ask.
I would also say that the sense of ‘journey’ never quite materialised. The festive finale was underwhelming and the experience never really reached a pinnacle. There was opportunity for real magic – the wishmas train ride taking flight and the moment the snow started to fall -yet these were never fully realised. The train remained oddly static and as for snow – one instagram mum has likened it to a ‘sprinkle of dandruff’.
Despite the obvious talent and expense behind Wishmas, there seemed to be some ‘holding back’.
The ‘Christmas Market ‘ upon exit, which has been billed as part of the experience does not do the show any favours. Essentially 3 or 4 stalls hosted by sponsors of the show (Pip organic, Fortnum and Masons etc), this was a soulless end and seemingly futile attempt to turn a buck. There may have been delicious treats and hot drinks on sale but with nowhere to sit and no atmosphere to enjoy, most hurried home.
Overall, the boys, spellbound by this festive underworld, really enjoyed the whole experience. My husband who finds it difficult to sit in a theatre for two hours also welcomed being able move around, although do expect low ceilings and crowded claustrophobic spaces at times.
My feeling is that the seedlings for an amazing adventure are all there but Secret Cinema may need to do some tweaking to ensure this show lives up to the lavish hype that has preceded it, not to mention the eye watering admission price.
Is Wishmas worth the ticket price?
If you are able to find a good ticket deal this is a unique and novel way to treat your children to some festive fun and top up on Christmas spirit. However if you happen to be a larger family paying a hefty £200+ for this 1hr over-too-quick experience you may find yourself slightly rattled.
Wishmas takes place at The Old Bauble Factory, 1 Launcelot st London SE1 7AD throughout the festive season until 7th Jan 2024
Need To Know:
There is no access to toilets during the experience
Buggies must be left in the buggy park
Babes in arms go free up to 2yrs
The bauble making craft is part of the Full Wishmas Experience
Meet and Greets with Santa are at an additional cost