American actor Tom Hanks stands in front of a screen of a rocket launched into space as part of a new immersive experience at the Lightroom in King's Cross

The Moonwalkers: A Journey with Tom Hanks is an out of this world experience

Tom Hanks, the much-loved American actor narrates The Moonwalkers, an immersive “out of this world” experience suitable for the entire family.

Arriving at the Lightroom in Kings Cross, we are promptly led into the unknown, much like the journey undertaken by the awe-inspiring Apollo astronauts some five decades ago.

We turn a corner before stepping into an uninterrupted subterranean space, filled with cosmic photographs which line the walls and the floor below.

Within seconds we are transported into outer space and met with a distinctive Californian voice reciting: “In an age which can feel increasingly divided, an international team effort is underway.”

It’s the voice of Hollywood’s golden boy and two-time Academy Award-winning actor, Tom Hanks.

TOM HANKS: The immersive show at the Lightroom. Image credit: Justin Sutcliffe/Lightroom

Hanks, who first burst on to our screens in 1980 in He Knows You’re Alone, and later Apollo 13 as astronaut Jim Lovell, perfectly narrates “a sensorial journey to the moon”.

His tone is one of familiarity, reminiscent of my childhood and in parts becomes anecdotal, as he speaks of his own fascination with the expanding universe.

The Moonwalkers marks the second opening of Lightroom after the success of David Hockney: Bigger and Closer.

The show tells the history of the Apollo missions, as well as NASA’s plans to return astronauts to the lunar surface for the first time in over fifty years.

The difference, though, between cosmic films like Apollo 13 and The Moonwalkers is that the astronauts are actively involved in the storytelling which affords us the opportunity to experience the moon through their personal perspectives.

The immersive multi-sensory “experience” narrated and co-written by Hanks and British documentary filmmaker Christopher Riley, lasts just under an hour and invites you into a high-tech world that has long been exclusively reserved for the experts.

A topic so technical and larger than life is turned into a spectacle of pure visual and educational magic, achieved through the use of real archival black and white film footage, animation, voiceovers, and digitally remastered photographs that have been vividly brought to life in colour without compromising their authenticity.

Paired with a mesmerising soundtrack from The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the experience focuses on the twelve men who walked on the moon between 1969 and 1972.

It also introduces us to a new generation of astronauts in the form of interviews with Victor Glover, Jeremy Hansen, Christina Koch and Reid Wiseman, the four-member team set to join the Artemis II mission a year from now.

As I settle onto a bench surrounded by archival footage from NASA’s Apollo space missions, a profound realisation hits me: the breath-taking views, as captivating as they are, are not unfolding in real-time, for I am not an astronaut, and I am not actually in space.

President John F. Kennedy adorns the walls as we meet him during his famous speech in 1962.

“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard” is hurled around the room by Kennedy, as the doing of the impossible by the American’s is reinforced in abundance.

The space is filled with the roar of powerful rocket engines and the walls and benches begin to shake as we hurtle into outer space as part of the first moon-walking Apollo mission, carrying Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin.

You’re not a fly on the wall, you’re one of them.

The music intensifies as we are plunged into a 4D encounter.

Then, an overwhelming silence ensues, as the rocket booster is dispatched, propelling the crew on their upward journey to the moon.

The first moon landing marked an unprecedented milestone in human history as Armstrong uttered the immortal words “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” in a show of scientific prowess, technological innovation and an intrepid spirit of exploration.

INSPIRING: Astronaut walks on the moon at the Lightroom. Image credit: Justin Sutcliffe/Lightroom

While I’m not an avid space enthusiast, listening to the astronauts narrate their journey as if you are one of their crew mates, right there in the mission control room, is a far more fascinating way to feel immersed in space than sitting in the front row of a cinema.

At points, the atmosphere shifts and an ear-piercing alarm resonates through the room. Simultaneously, footage decorates the four-walls, narrating a tale of the tenacity, determination and resilience of humankind during the near failure of the Apollo 9 mission.

Hank’s voice moves through the space nearly as dynamically as the representational process does, as he labels the moon “a stranger with a shifting face, yet as familiar as our next-door neighbour.”

We also join him as he recalls breathing through a garden hose, submerged beneath the water’s surface, replicating the sensation of space-walking at the bottom of his pool as a child.

Hanks says: “This was still a magical thing to do because with a little imagination hey, I was walking in space”

The out of this world exhibit tells a story of space exploration in a way live theatre and cinema cannot replicate and will leave you gawping in awe.

Whilst most people have never ventured into space, this experience is probably the closest we will ever come to such an extraordinary journey.

“The Moonwalkers: A Journey With Tom Hanks” is showing at the Lightroom from December 6 – April 21, 2024.

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