Sitting somewhere between a massive social media/publicity campaign and the opportunity to look at some cool stuff, the London leg of the ongoing touring Game of Thrones exhibit was managed by Sky in a way that only a massive media brand could.
Looking at the ticketholders queuing up in the O2’s main reception holding area, it was pretty clear these were the hard-core fans. Having battled for hours online to secure these coveted free tickets, only available to Sky customers and rarer than dragon eggs, the attendees knew that they were holding the equivalent of a Westeros Willy Wonka Golden Ticket. Even in my half hour time slot I spotted three fully-garbed Khal Drogos, a Daenerys and a Melisandre. Make no bones about it, this was the mecca for Thrones fans, but would it deliver?
The exhibition itself is a split between costumes/props from the show and photo opportunities/experiences. The costumes are grouped into neat, themed tableaux (Kings Landing, Dorne, The Wall, Mereen) and because they aren’t behind glass you can admire the work that has gone into constructing these garments which need to stand up to close scrutiny on high definition screens. All major characters from the series are presented, as are some of the impressive weapons (understandably behind glass) though you can pretend to wield The Mountain’s giant broadsword (it’s attached to the wall so you can’t accidentally behead your friends). Fan favourites were the dragon eggs, Joffrey’s crown, Jaime Lannister’s golden fist and some neat White Walker weaponry.
If you just wanted to look at the museum pieces you’d probably be out in 20 minutes, but the main attraction was clearly the interactive content. Having pledged your online allegiance to one of the show’s Houses before you entered, you were allocated a unique code which was then recorded at each photo opportunity so that you could download and share it later. So, if you fancied appearing in a five-second clip where you’re immolated by a dragon, or just wanted to be turned into a White Walker (blue eyes and grey skin), this was the place to be. And no trip to Westeros would be complete with a pose on the Iron throne. Whether you slouched nonchalantly or sat bolt upright, it didn’t matter that it wasn’t the real thing, it FELT like the real thing, and it felt good!
The main event was a trip up The Wall. Boasting a leg-numbing queuing time of over an hour, this was something not to be missed. If the scary disclaimer didn’t put you off, the occasional screams from participants might make you reconsider your involvement. Each would-be ‘crow’ entered one of five cages and was hoisted up the wall. Of course, the cages were static, but the use of the Oculus Rift virtual reality visor and headphones meant that you felt like you were ascending the great ice wall at Castle Black. The higher you got, the stronger the wind machine blows. You spin around and you’re teetering right on the edge, ready to be bombarded by fireballs from Wildlings. Exhilarating and totally immersive, this is a unique experience and worth the wait and the coolest thing here, in both senses of the word.
For those who weren’t lucky enough to get a ticket to the exhibition, it was still possible to get your photo snapped on an alternative Iron Throne (what, there’s more than one?!) or even more fun to be filmed in a mocked-up Sky News studio, reporting on the imminent launch of the new season of the show, complete with cutaway to clip and cheesy dialogue. As with all these activities, participants were given their own unique codes to download the content remotely and share socially. Oh, and as a final memento, you could have your photo taken with a White Walker or a dragon.
Verdict: A clever mix of the real (costumes/props) and fantasy (CGI and virtual reality trickery),this is the same mix that works so well for the show that it’s promoting. Game of Thrones: The Exhibit is a love letter to HBO’s behemoth show and even if you’re not that into it (is that possible?) the presentation here is addictive. 9/10