Watching a live theatre show can be a pretty immersive experience by itself, provided it is an interesting piece of work. But in the absence of live shows during the pandemic, is it truly possible to come up with a digital experience that promises the same level of engagement and thrill? Well, if Richard Crawford is to be believed, it is.
The British theatre director and actor is known for Secret Theatre, a site-specific immersive theatre and live film company. Since 2008, they have created productions where the audience can explore and interact with the characters in unique locations across the world, whether that be in a New York factory transformed into Edward Scissorhands’ house, in a courtroom and prison cells in London or on a speed boat in Hong Kong en route to a secret haunted house.
However, with the pandemic still looming large, for the first time Secret Theatre is going ahead with a show that will be screened online. Speaking about taking the experience online with his newest production Redemption Room, Crawford says, “Often in life you are forced into situations, given the nature of the world. Rather than being daunted by this, we have embraced it.” And in doing so, the team has created an online event that can be watched from anywhere in the world. “That is truly special. On any given night we could have audiences in India, Europe, America— this is a great advantage for us,” he says. The move to online, he acknowledges, is challenging and doing it live is a bold one. “It is giving the artists, we are working, with a purpose, which has been lost over the last year in lockdown where many haven't worked,” he shares.
So, what exactly is Redemption Room and how will it translate into an immersive experience for the audience? The thriller/horror experience promises to take participants on a thrilling journey, as part of which they will get to decide the fate of six celebrities as they compete and seek redemption for their societal crimes—but not without some thrilling twists thrown into the mix as an evil entity lurks in the dark.
“I love haunted houses, scary movies and just felt the vibe of the current world suited this genre. I just woke up one morning and wrote the first half of the script. I could visualise the characters and how it could work,” says Crawford.
Audiences can expect a TV show format, where they can interact and will be asked to vote during certain sections of the experience. Redemption Room will go live across the world over Zoom featuring contestants from Mumbai, Hong Kong, London, Singapore, Sydney and New York. “I felt the six contestants would work great as it is a global show. I have done shows in Asia, Europe and America so it made sense to have characters from there—and I have come very close to doing shows in Australia and India, as both countries have such a rich live performance history, so I love that two of the contestants are from there,” adds Crawford.
Not only that, on buying a ticket, audience members can message the contestants straight away, build relations with them and even chat with them in real time during the show. For an even spookier experience, Crawford suggests turning off the lights and watching the show unfold in candlelight.
Currently based between London and New York, the director who has travelled the world working with new talent and new cultures, is excited about opening the show to a wider audience. “I really hope the people of India embrace the show and love it, and one day in the future I can open some live experiences in this wonderful country,” he concludes.
Redemption Room will be staged online between 25 February and 13 March. Tickets are available on bookmyshow.com