Reviewed – 12th February 2020
“The tense dynamic is really engrossing and well set out”
VR has been poised to further the possibilities of theatre for some time now. With experiences varying from creepy haunted houses to joining the circus, there seems no end to the locational possibilities. But theatre isn’t really about believing you’re witnessing reality – the proscenium arch is generally a big give-away. So aside from the ‘realness’ of the experience, and the ability to relocate its audience, does VR have anything to offer to a theatre production’s narrative?
RawTransport™ attempts to embroil the capabilities of VR in to the plot itself: Entering a small shipping container, we’re greeted by a very smiley host (Carly McCann) whose enthusiasm is infectious. Upon donning our headsets, we’ll be travelling, McCann tells us, to numerous breath-taking locations around the globe.
During her introduction speech, McCann is rudely interrupted by the creator of RawTransport™ (Ben Grant) who overtly undermines and embarrasses her in front of her passengers, and then proceeds to work silently in the corner within his VR creation.
The VR experience itself consists of various tranquil settings – under a willow tree, beside a countryside river, in a sunny field, and so on – pared with the occasional 4-D effect – accompanying scents, gentle rain, or a sip of a drink. This tranquillity is frequently interrupted by a glitch in the programme, and something/someone appearing to hack the system from within…
With a run-time of only half an hour, RawTransport™ doesn’t really give itself enough time to develop any of its ideas to fruition. Instead, it feels more like a preview for a full show, or perhaps the first episode in a series (Is this a thing?) But it’s not entirely clear what the message, or in fact the narrative, is supposed to be, and we’re left with a lot of loose ends. For example, having teased us a little at the beginning I would have liked to see more of McCann and Grant’s character developments. The tense dynamic is really engrossing and well set out, and I was surprised there wasn’t more of it. Similarly, the narrative of the VR experience itself seems only in the conceptual stages. There is most definitely a plot, but it feels just out of reach for the audience to grasp.
Electrick Village is certainly a theatre company to watch, with ideas for days, but they appear afraid of fully developing any single idea, perhaps lest their audience should grow bored. Being left wanting more is certainly better than being left wishing you’d had less, but this is a little extreme. It felt like it ended just as it was beginning.
Reviewed by Miriam Sallon