A hole in the fabric of space and time has opened up in Shoreditch, probably not for the first time. However, this particular wormhole – which tbf looks a lot like a door – leads to a pristine alien planet named Avora, in which the humanlike natives protect themselves from the planet’s toxic atmosphere by knocking back a substance called lumenol, which tastes exactly like good old earthen booze and is served in delicious cocktail form.
‘Avora’ is part of a nascent London immersive drinking experience scene, and is indeed from the same people as ‘Alcotraz’, an experience in which audiences are cast as inmates smuggling liqueur into a very jolly US penitentiary.
There is something intrinsically hilarious about the stated ambition of ‘Avora’, which nominally combines ‘going for a drink’ with ‘sci-fi epic’. Your £40 entry guarantees you three cocktails, and it’s not hard to score more – at one point a lab-coated scientist proffered me a test tube of something very strong and very yellow and asked me if it made me feel ‘like a goblin’ (if by ‘goblin’ he meant ‘drunk’, then yes).
They’re entertainingly presented, too: the first drink was handed to us in a metal box, and we mixed our own violently purple, violently bubbling drink in order to innoculate ourselves against the harsh Avoran air. Having stepped through the portal, our first drink on the fabulously exotic alien planet was, uh, a white Negroni, but we had to forage the garnish from some alien bushes. The final drink we again fashioned ourselves via the spirit dispensers handily built into the Avorans’ big sacred tree. The limits of the design budget are palpable, but it’s inventive, and there’s plenty of insta-friendly stuff, from the jumpsuits we donned at the start to colourful drinks and the glowing ‘plants’ in the final room.
Assessed purely as a work of drama, it is obviously terrible: there is an extremely thin plot that appears to have been mostly borrowed from ‘Avatar’, but it’s mostly just two hours of vamping for time as sundry scientists and natives chatted away affably to us to no great end.
Assessed purely as a bar, it’s just pretty weird: I don’t think you’d ordinarily choose to go out drinking in a room full of plastic plants in which the only beverage you can get is a white Negroni.
Strangely, though, when you combine the two – just like a cocktail!! – it’s really quite fun, a night of drinking given a loose structure, some kitschy distractions and an entertaining absurdity. It would be a terrific first-date spot: it’s a pretty short night, you’re kept busy-ish, and there’s lots to talk about. And by the way, maximum respect to the performers: staying in character as an alien for two hours while making idle chit-chat to young people out on the razz in east London is not an easy skill.
There were moments when the plot kicked into gear a bit more where I fantasised about this being done as a deadly serious, massive budget, morally fraught odyssey that asked big existential questions. But then I thought: We’re in a sci-fi cocktail bar in Shoreditch, it would be weird if we were all taking this deadly seriously. Genuinely a good laugh, even if it’s not quite out of this world.