The closest thing I’ve ever seen to a VR theater piece. Totally immersive, engrossing, riveting, captivating… and months later I still can’t stop thinking about it (seen 10/15/2016)
- Macbeth told with every character given equal weight.
- I like how I could be in the same area multiple times and not realize at first that it was the same area (yay lighting)
- Reminded me of my thesis
- Loved all the details in the building. There were rooms I would have been happy to spend an hour in just reading letter and examining trinkets.
- Not since Matthew Bourne have I seen a story told so well through choreography (it’s almost entirely silent!)
- Constant sense of FOMO
- It was tricky to decide whether to follow a character (who you may lose) or just keep exploring. Once I realized the show was repeating (though with interesting little changes– nurse B being present for nurse A’s fit the second time), I wish I had a better sense of new places to go. Like during the banquet hall scene, seems like everyone is there so it’s a good opportunity to go read a letter or something. And apparently the banquet hall scene ends differently the third time. I wasn’t looking out for that, so I didn’t notice. But really this is all just a good reason to go again!
- Don’t buy the $20 book they offer afterwards. They make it sound like it’s going to be a the equivalent of the second disc of a blu-ray where you’d get all the ‘Behind the Scenes’ and ‘Making Of’ content. Not even remotely true.
What I remember from my experience (notes on the train ride home):
- ‘Room keys’ as cards
- Nightclub, 1930s, great voice lounge singer. Absinthe. Not 1930s prices.
- Very enchanting hosts tell us not to speak, put on our masks (make us look like ducks), and to note that those in black masks are our guides/hosts. Also that if we ever need a break or whatnot, follow the sound of nightclub music and we can come back in here.
- We go into an elevator and are told ‘everything is not as it seems’ and ‘it’s best to go it alone.’
- I get off on the third stop (4th floor).
- I start in a hallway with some offices. I walk into a room with a typewriter and see that Macbeth has written Macduff a letter. In fact there’s been an exchange and there are several letters. I’m tickled by the details of the rooms– maps, a globe, taxidermy, diagrams, drawings– all in low lighting that keep everything feeling very mysterious.
- I’m quickly overwhelmed by the number of people around me and try to go in a direction no one else is going. I pass through a graveyard– very eerie. Windy. Smells like earth. I pass through there into a room with a bath in the center.
- I imagine this where Lady Macbeth washes blood off of her, and sure enough, it’s brown/red water. As I entered the room though, I spot my first actor. I can tell because they don’t have a mask. They dance across the back and into the darkness. I try to follow them but they’re nowhere to be seen. Instead I see what appears to be a double sided mirror and a woman with black hair wearing nothing but her underwear about to put a black dress on. I believe I also catch a glimpse of a distraught looking pregnant woman in a green dress.
- I leave this room and have my first major choice. Upstairs or downstairs? I see some people going upstairs, so I go downstairs. I come to a room with telephones and a check-in desk. An receptionist is behind the desk, looking nervous. I look around and start to read the check-in registry, when suddenly a woman comes right at me– to sign in. She starts an intricate dance with the receptionist, and I’m struck by how agile they both are despite their bulky period costumes. They use the desk, swing around, catch each other, go up on walls. It’s pretty cool. Eventually one makes their way over to the phone booth and I realize they’re speaking to each other. Does the phone booth represent a different location? Also I now realize I’m not clear if all of the exit signs are actually telling us where we can go or not. The receptionist grabs the woman and carries her (lovingly) downstairs.
- I believe I went off to explore more nooks and crannies (behind the reception desk there’s a few more rooms, one where later in the night I found someone drawing their hand, circles, and pentagrams (really cool little diorama and origami things… finger with the different planets written). But anyway, soon I see everyone going downstairs in the direction the hotel couple went earlier. I realize now that maybe it’s possible to pick a character and follow them and their story, though you’re at risk of losing them through the tight hallways and staircases with all the other people trying to do that. So the alternative is to always be exploring the places no one else is, but that means there’s less of a cohesive story.
- Down past a stained glass window that feels very ‘playing cards’ (two kings), we’re in the ballroom, which is probably the grandest space in the hotel. There’s a banquet table with what seems like most of the cast eating, in slow motion, with beautiful stage lighting and powerful, blaring music and sound. Macbeth is covered in blood. There’s laughing and fighting and drinking and sexuality and upsetness. The lighting is gorgeous, and I found myself seeing the action from angles that would make a proper cinematographer gleeful.
- After the banquet scene (which I later realized is actually the end of the show?), the room reconfigures into a forest, eventually lighting up with Christmas lights. I started to get antsy in here. Are we supposed to stay in one spot? I wanted to keep exploring. Soon I found one of the maids (or Lady Macbeth?) In a tent out Stage Right organizing pillows. Later I found her picking up clothing and folding it, and praying in a little private church. I found myself wondering if some of the characters have built into their story the necessary actions to reset other characters’ stories, and this was later confirmed when the two nurses were resetting the bed in the bathtub room, in addition to hanging the bathmats over the tub and resetting a series of letters. That room, by the way, may as well have been called the super angry sad room, as it seemed like every time I was in there a couple was screaming, beating, flinging around. I never did see the bathtub get used.
- At some point I caught the tail end of some crazy stuff happening in another little church room, and just when I thought I had my bearings I unexpectedly found myself back in the banquet hall, which made me anxious again. Lady Macbeth? Was doing a dance with the trees and pulling the back. Eventually this became a sort of Christmas dance, once again involving many of the characters. Beautiful, amazing choreography by the way. Lady Macduff seemed super sad when her husband seemed to favor less pregnant women on the dance floor. There was also a lot of mano on mano action here. One of the guys reminded me of Dorian Gray. And also, all the actors seemed to have a remarkable ability for conveying sadness, desperation, and hopelessness.
- There was a very cool dance scene up in the mezz involving a door frame. It’s amazing no one got hit.
- Now we’re just kind of jumping around, but soon I was worried that the hotel was much smaller than I thought, so I set off in determination of find new rooms. Luckily, there was a ton of other stuff I hadn’t seen. Found a section of the hotel by going as far upstairs as I could that was a hospital wing, taxidermy stuff, shops, a bar with a pool table, and a forest with hut.
- It was cool stumbling on the hospital area, as I found a new character I hadn’t seen and she was basically all by herself. She had a suitcase and it looked like she was going to go into the hospital, but instead she sat on it and just looked sad. Then she got up, and took the hand of the girl behind me and brought her upstairs (where the rest of us couldn’t follow.)
- Soon in the forest I stumbled on what for some reason became the dynamic I was most fascinated by. A nurse who took another nurse into a hut and rocked her to sleep, then put her in the chair where, possessed like, she continued to rock herself. Then the other nurse went into this room where she took chalk and drew everywhere, then in this little circle area did an amazing dance, which I later saw repeated but with the nurse. There was another scene where the nurses dance, mirror, and follow each other through the forest which was exquisite. And they’re even in the banquet scene– up in the mezzanine, standing silent. They hear screams, then notice all the footsteps on the floor/ceiling above, then take off toward the banquet hall.
- Also curious what was up with bald lady. I thought she was a witch but never really saw her with other women.
- What seemed like the witches was two girls and the very Dorian Gray-esque guy (with a ponytail) sitting down in the lobby area and toasting, doing shots, etc. and smiling every time some song said something about keep smiling.
- Not sure what was going on with the shirtless guys in the coat check.
- Watching the bar scene was cool… just a few guys playing cards, then Macbeth comes in all angry like and has a very confrontational fight where he bashes the guy’s skull in with a brick. This felt the most successful to me in terms of everyone being in their own story. Macbeth was off somewhere else with Lady Macbeth probably raging up on how he was betrayed, but this guy (Banquo maybe?) was just having a normal cards night.
God I want to make a VR version of this. Or a mixed reality version– lessons from this and THE VOID could make a very cool experience. You’d be the only audience member (no cattle herding between locations), you’d have all the time in the world to explore and experience the different stories, and since you’re not bound by the laws of physics, there could be some truly spectacular special effects/ gravity-defying moves, and topsy-turvy events (imagine if the rooms could reconfigure themselves?) My mind is spinning with possibilities.
It would also be really exciting to basically just ‘open a world’ (maybe in the metaverse?) and not tell anyone how it’s being generated. Is everything live or pre-scripted? Maybe there’s elements of both? But it would be fun to actually make it live– so other people in the real world can join you in the experience (but you could turn them off if you really want it to be private). Every so often there might be a once-in-a-lifetime variation in the story- the wrong character dies or something, then that becomes a huge reddit discussion. Even pre-scripted things would have little variations coded in, including some direct interactions with audience members. For example, when you come in you could be asked ‘are you okay being part of the show?’ and maybe there’s a character that can sense these spirits around them, and at one point they just turn around, grab you by the neck and lift you up (everyone for a moment can see your whole body). You can’t fight back, but you also can’t be hurt. But yeah, just like the darkness and selective light are part of the child-like wonder and mystery in the real show, the VR show should have a constant flux of things that have you questioning the reality, wondering if what you’re seeing is real or not.