The pandemic forced many theatre companies online, and generated a lot innovation in the quest to make filmed drama more immersive. This new short film from Swamp Motel, who recently created the critically acclaimed escape room The Drop, pushes interactivity to a whole new level by allowing the viewer to switch at will between two separate timelines.
The film starts with four friends spending the weekend in a farmhouse in the country. They discuss how they could never live outside London, with it galleries, theatres and Deliveroo; but as they point out, “Got to be Tottenham, got to be the Victoria Line – but I can’t remember the last time we went into Soho.” The theme of whether they’re truly happy where they’re living subtly parallels that of whether they’re content in their lives.
The talk turns to buried treasure when they discover a map marked with the crosses. Danny (Graham Butler) and Kate (Nicki Hobday) set off into the night armed with spades and wellington boots; Rick (Kaffe Keating) and Adele (Shvorne Marks) stay in the farmhouse necking margharitas.
The interaction in the film comes from the fact that you can, at any point, click or press the space bar to switch between the night timeline and the morning after. With dazzling ingenuity the two timelines are matched precisely, not just scene for scene but shot for shot. The rotating camera in the middle of the kitchen table the night before turns at exactly the same speed the following morning; the view through the door of Kate and Danny climbing into their boots echose that of Rick and Adele going in search of them the next day. Even the conversations parallel each other.
The After is both a technological tour de force and a compelling short drama, performed in an entirely naturalistic way. You’ll want to watch it twice to be sure you don’t miss anything the first time round; but you’ll still switch between morning and night, if only to see how well the timelines are integrated.
Developed as part of The Lowry’s Live Now digital commissioning programme, the show is available for free until 5 May, on a pay what you want basis.
Directed by Clem Garritty
Produced by Swamp Motel
Written by Clem Garritty, Sadie Spencer, Ollie Jones and Peter Hobday