REVIEW: AVORA FAMILY EXPERIENCE
Mocktails, Aliens, Scientists and a Farty Finale in this New Kids’ Adventure
Up an unassuming, Shoreditch street is a secret portal to another planet. We took our daughter for a well-deserved break from Earth at their newly launched, family experience.
It’s made by the team behind Alcotraz, further up the street, which sees visitors cast as inmates, smuggling booze into a US prison.
Avora is a similarly immersive drinking experience, but on school holidays and Sunday afternoons, the cocktails are replaced by mocktails and it becomes an altogether more wholesome adventure.
An eccentric, American scientist greets us and leads us downstairs to Roscorp Laboratory, where fellow scientist, Dr Shelly puts our coats (and half eaten cheese sandwich) into a locker and presents us with branded, Insta-friendly jumpsuits ahead of our mission.
The white-coated scientists give a fun, kid-friendly briefing, preparing us for our trip through the fabric of time and space, then give us two intriguing, metal boxes. Our daughter is instructed to open them and mix the luminous, purple and yellow test tubes within, into our scientific beakers. She is delighted when they change colour, bubble and smoke violently and is stunned that we are allowed drink them. This, we learn is Luminol, a precious, much-desired substance from Avora, which we must drink to acclimatise to the strange new world we are about to discover.
An entertainingly boorish, American army guy joins for protection as we leap through the gateway to Avora, where we sit on otherworldly rocks in an intergalactic jungle, complete with waterfalls and Technicolor plants.
Eventually, we meet the Avorians, the type of creatures you normally see at Glastonbury, smelling of patchouli and singing Billy Bragg songs on ukuleles. The hippy aliens teach us about their Avatar-esque world and its natural, Luminol resources, which the army guy seems keen to exploit back on Earth.
The scientists, army and Avorian actors are excellent with children, as they bring around boxes of the planet's mysterious creatures, herbs and potions for the children to touch and sniff, filling out scientific cards with their thoughts.
The kids decide that the army guy cannot be trusted to join our mission to the sacred Luminol-making tree, so we leave him behind. And as the sun sets and the jungle glows in UV, we are led over an atmospheric bridge, avoiding the child-eating fish and through an entrance to a vast, heigh-ceilinged space, admiring the huge, jellyfish-like fibre optics, changing colour above us and the colour-pulsating flowers creeping up the rocks.
We take our seats as the Avorians prepare children (and some keen parents) with UV face paint, before leading each small group inside the sacred tree itself, where our daughter plucks a giant red berry from a vine inside and gives it to our friendly scientist, who squeezes its juice into our glowing, colour-changing mocktails, topped with sweet, tapioca balls.
We are treated to an Avorian singalong around the campfire, when that dastardly army guy returns to help himself to sacred Luminol. Handily, the tree thwarts him with a drink which results in lots of farty, toilet humour and helium guffaws from the Luminol-slurping sprogs.
The experience lasts an hour and a half and the immersive adventure, otherworldly sets, sensory activities and theatrical mocktails captivated the children for the duration. The actors make the experience and are brilliant with children - they delighted our daughter by making her toy bunny an honorary adventurer and weaving the “Spider-Pancake” she created into the storyline.
There were also some handy little messages for small people, about respecting other cultures and caring for whatever planet you find yourselves on.
And this message is carried through behind the scenes - the experience is carbon neutral, because a tree is planted for every ticket purchased and even the neon drinks are created in partnership with the Sustainable Restaurant Foundation, using low-waste, low-carbon and plant-based ingredients.
Worthy and otherworldly - we’ll drink to that.
Avora: Family Immersive Adventure 5C, 127 Hackney Road, London, E2 8GY. Sundays, 12pm – 3:30pm. School Holiday weekdays. £24.50 per child (6-13) £29.50 per adult.