It was difficult to know what to expect from ‘Dead Wait’. The information online called it ‘a live, interactive game’ a phrase that is as vague as it is intriguing, but what you wouldn’t expect is to be ticket number 1 of 1! Whilst being escorted to a reserved seat in the Soho bar you start to get a little nervous. It’s all on you, the focus is going to be on you, but that is exactly the way new theatre companies are moving these days. The emphasis is on personalised experiences that give a uniqueness to the show.
Companies such as Punch Drunk, whose show ‘The Drowned Man’ allows audiences free reign of a movie studio to explore how they wish, or RIFT who’s overnight Macbeth has audiences in groups of 10 sleeping in dorm room whilst the action takes place around them, are unique because they give audiences a feeling of personal engagement. But the thought that you are the only one the show is happening for is really exciting, if not a little nerve-wracking.
You’re escorted up to a room and sat in front of a computer. Here you are informed by a short video that Sarah Parker, who has recently become a field agent for the police, has been given the mission of being kidnapped in order to infiltrate a kidnapping ring and stop them. Your job? Well you’re also an agent, you’re her eyes and ears, and it’s you’re job to guide her through this mission, so already a lot of pressure. You are then connected to Sarah through a live stream that links to an ‘unknown’ location. You can see what she sees thanks to some ‘Google Glass-esk’ technology. You introduce ourselves and then we’re off!
The idea of watching a piece of theatre unfold whilst making the decisions as to what happens next is interesting, but you never quite felt in control. You are given options throughout that are presented as if you have to make the decision, but at moments you feel like no matter what you say there was an outcome preordained. This is mainly down to the fact that the main goal here isn’t to win, but to enjoy the show, which goes against our competitive urges.
There is a narrative that must be followed and no matter how many times you tell someone to jump in front of a bullet or ignore something that looks crucial, they have to persuade you to do the thing that progresses the story or it won’t work. In this sense the actress playing Sarah Parker was very good at taking direction and relaying what I was saying to the other characters whilst also being a character and leading me in the right direction. We worked well together, but I could see how the relationship between her and the audience could be a difficult one to traverse. The other actors were decent, but I lost a lot of what they were saying, which is a hazard of working through live streaming.
The main theme of the show is ‘Trust’. Sarah needs to trust you to make the right decisions and the characters she meets along the way need to trust her to save them. It’s a valid question to raise, especially in a time where trust isn’t an easy thing to come by. We are naturally suspicious of anyone we don’t know and that affects our day-to-day lives. The setting added to this feeling of mistrust as the dark, cave-like setting of The Vaults underneath Waterloo station give a cold and ominous tinge to this already morbid story. This show isn’t for the faint of heart, that’s for sure.
In all you come away with your heart pounding and having spent an hour feeling important. The time flew past because being in the moment is just about the most fun you can have of any experience, and the fact that a piece of theatre can still do that is exhilarating and comforting to know.
Dead Wait is transferring up to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this August.
@ THE PLEASANCE COURTYARD – 2-17 AUGUST 2014