WHIST at The Festival Theatre Edinburgh is a merge of physical theatre, sculpture and interactive technologies that re-defines what many of us would define as a performance and gives us all a glimpse into the enormous possibilities of virtual reality as a performance media in its own right – a world where stage sets, actors, music and performance space are all in a virtual reality where the hardware itself can be easily transported and the same performance brought to any venue irrespective of size, location or technical set up resources.
This work is the result of over four years of collaboration and features some of the UK's top dancers. Created by members of Jasmin Vardimon Company, and working with some highly creative visual artists (working both in the real and virtual world), this work provides the viewer the opportunity of exploring a story from one of 76 different perspectives, with many of these perspectives specifically designed to be viewed from different angles, viewpoints and heights, and at the same time allowing virtual reality and digital technology to merge with real life performers to produce special effects that even if they were possible on a real stage would be hugely expensive to re-create…virtual reality however gives us this experience at a very low cost base.
WHIST explores the notion of unconsciousness through the dreams, fears and desires of a family, characters of which are inspired by Sigmund Freud’s real case studies, and how we as viewers inter-act with the characters and surroundings in this virtual world give many pointers to our own personalities.
The virtual world of WHIST is rich with visual references – many have deeply religious iconography and significance while others at times are like walking through an Andy Warhol “Factory Art Film” while listening at times to a soundtrack from the Velvet Underground.
WHIST is not only re-defining what a performance can be, but re-defining potentially the whole economics of performance art. The creators behind this ambitious project are quick to point out that the technologies behind this work are designed to be an additional strand to performance theatre and never a replacement for live performance. The technologies behind this performance are still very much at early stages, and the future possibilities of how we all react to virtual reality as a performance media are literally endless.
Review by Tom King