Immersive theatre is one of those buzz-phrases that conjures up labored audience participation when done wrong. But when done right, like the immersive exploits of theatre company Punchdrunk, it can be an invigorating and refreshingly intense experience. Felix Mortimer is a former member of Punchdrunk who has gone on to found RETZ with Simon Ryninks, and earlier this year the company performed an experimental version of Shakespeare’s The Tempest called O Brave New World, which took place over six months and across the physical and online worlds.
The play was broken down into six parts and told using six different installations which took up residence in a disused shop in Hackney, east London—the installations were augmented further by using online videos accessed through RETZ’s website. Turning up in the evening to watch the performance—the shop became a cafe in the daytime—you could become part of the play, enjoying a game of foosball or get served a drink at the bar from the characters. The online videos could then flesh out the story and entice people along to the next performance. The project culminated in the last three days where the play spilt out onto the streets of Hackney. Episodes of the performance are now online, starting with The Wrack above.
RETZ’s next project sounds just as ambitious, which will be an attempt at staging Kafka’s The Trial and In The Penal Colony told in real-time across London, broken up into three productions. The piece will, again, mix up the physical and online world to tell the story, involving an online treasure hunt and videos that will lead towards a “one-on-one immersive performance” in a government building. The piece is due to be performed in spring 2013.