Saturday, 18 May 2013

Word Play, Boho Interactive

Is it theatre? Cinema? TV? Gaming? Whatever it is, Word Play is a live interactive experience from Boho Interactive, who've been presenting work where the audience gets more involved than is usual. In this case, it's a live broadcast from a forestry laboratory in Yarralumla to the Discovery Centre at Black Mountain Laboratories, where three actors get to tell a post-apocalyptic disaster story, about a disastrous plague and the quest for a possible solution. The interactivity comes up as the audience gets to message the cast at various points in the story, asking questions and providing directions, either via SMS or via a specially built phone app for iphone or android (and it's worth getting the app rather than doing it by SMS, the app is very well designed to suit the production).

And it's when it's interactive that this show really comes alive - either with the audience getting to ask open questions, or give open directions to the characters (a midshow sequence where the audience is asked to give instructions is particularly a highlight, partially because, well, the audience are shifty bastards and often give perversely wrong instructions just to see if the actors follow them ... and they do!). It really does give a live-ness to the situation that being shown-via-webcast doesn't always permit (after all, you're not in the same room as the actors). Some of the other interactivity is a bit more obligatory  of the "because it's there" - there's a sequence where the entire role of the audience is to determine in what order the exposition is going to be in, which isn't that much fun - whatever the audience chooses, the whole set of stories is going to be told anyway, so the choice is somewhat arbitrary.

Elsewhere, when the show isn't being interactive, there are highs and lows. The script feels a little bit in love with its own exposition - the ultimate nature of the threat is actually quite simple (and appropriately terrifying), but it works better by being shown rather than being talked about, as it starts to physically affect our three characters - and the first half hour or so is very talk heavy. The presentation by multiple web-cams is technically pretty sound (each cast member has a webcam attached to them, plus a couple of webcams placed around the set also pick up alternate angles, and all editing is done live) and a credit to director Marissa Martin and her tech team.

I think this falls more into the territory of "interesting experiment" rather than "completely successful" - it could use a little tightening round the edges, but the performances by Euan Bowen, Raoul Craemer and Cathy Petocz are solid and committed, and there's interesting ideas here worth exploring. So worth having a look.

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