Site-specific theatre is by no means a new invention, but the idea of creating unique performative experiences in a world saturated by digital distraction is gaining ground globally, and is now taking root in Cape Town.
Immortal, an immersive theatre experience at Cape Town’s Castle of Good Hope addresses the demand to participate in a live experience. Here an audience member is given the power to choose to prescribe to a narrative or deviate from it and decide on his/her own path, while being able to interact with the 360 degree performance environment. This means the audience is able to interact with actors and set pieces without being bogged down by conventional theatre norms that separate actor from audience.
Audience members are given masks to be worn for the duration of the show and actors who double up as ushers facilitate the creation of Immortal’s illusion from well before the show actually starts. These ushers play the role of the venue’s in-keepers who take the audience on a tour of its spooky rooms and labyrinthine passages. Along the way audience members encounter other characters whose overlapping narratives can be puzzled together and pondered upon while three creepy witch-like characters spook about. This blurring of reality and fantasy is Immortal’s strongest element, as it allows the audience to become fully emerged in the controlled fantasy.
Another striking element is the piece’s attention to visual detail with a plethora of excellently crafted installation art by Nicola Mayer – work that, in its own right, could be viewed as a standalone exhibition. Each room in the space has a myriad of pieces that can be touched and explored. One room is fully covered in sand pouring from a gigantic hourglass, while another area’s ceiling is adorned in root-like rope.
Immortal is a brilliantly organic alternative to the virtual reality trend and its production company Standing O may very well make theatre accessible to a much larger audience in coming years.
Immortal runs at the Castle of Good Hope until 14 January 2018.