Pros: Supremely inventive audio visuals complemented by a dynamic scenario that shocks and fascinates in equal measure.
Cons: Too short!
A good friend of mine often extols the virtues of immersive theatre, So I was especially looking forward to my first real taste of this unique performance genre. Originally staged by the Camden People’s Theatre as part of their one-on-one Sprint 2014 festival, Dead Arise was back for the Halloween weekend. Upon arriving, I was asked to remove my shoes, socks and jacket; and given a white apron to wear; a bag holding a technical kit was strapped to my waist. As I donned video goggles, blindfold and headset, I felt a twinge of nervous tension. I was one of two people waking up in hospital and we had to find each other in order to survive. Aside from that, I wasn’t absolutely certain what was going to happen.
I was gently guided into a room that felt huge, but in all likelihood, didn’t walk very far during the performance; such is the power of suggestion when you lose control of your senses. My field of vision was restricted to a grainy, black and white hue. I was given instructions through the headset and led with the lightest of touches through a series of rooms and corridors. I was laid to rest on a hospital stretcher. Mysterious figures in uniforms were tending to me; I felt a surge of adrenalin and grabbed the edges of the stretcher, but all I felt was determination that I rise to the challenge. Did I find my lost companion and more importantly did we get out alive?
In the course of the 20-minute performance, my imagination carried me to a different place. Aside from the grainy images in front of me and sparse instructions through the headset, there was no independent sense of my surroundings. Logic and perception were alien concepts to me. I became the star of my own Zombie Apocalypse movie; I beat off assailants with a variety of weapons as I made my way through the dark recesses of the building frantically searching for my companion. It was quite simply an amazing experience – alarming and exhilarating – but I felt absolutely no panic or disquiet. On this occasion, I was the actor playing the leading role and it was an incredible feeling to both watch and participate. My only real criticism is the painfully short duration of the performance; it probably takes around 10 minutes to adjust and properly orientate to the environment, so 20 minutes was nowhere long enough. I felt it ended just as I was getting my bearings. Whilst it may not be to everyone’s taste, immersive theatre has well and truly arrived as a credible art form and worth a shot, and a show like Dead Arise is the perfect introduction.
Creator: Aaron Reeves
Producer: Camden Peoples Theatre
Booking until: This show has completed its run