You: The Player at WYP – Culture Vulture

In Theatre Reviews on November 4, 2012 at 3:15 pm

WYP’s Transform festival finished with You:The Player an exquisite, challenging and thoroughly original collaborative piece from Look Left Look Right that certainly did not sell itself short as ‘part theatre, part game’.

Five writers and an array of local Yorkshire acting talent were thrown together, and managed to create a seamless adventure which transported the audience into a reality-TV-inspired, dystopian nightmare.

Assembling outside the entrance to ‘the game’, audience members were instructed to leave all bags and coats at the entrance, and were handed an individual neck tag with a QR code which took your picture as you scanned it.

The mystery increased as you then had to sign a consent form that would legitimise all immoral happenings about to occur, and the right to use and manipulate your image and actions in the future, with whatever technology was about to be created.

Suddenly, a camp game-show host appeared on the television screens surrounding the entrance, welcoming you to Heaven TV. In a matrix-inspired kerfuffle, the first of many moral dilemmas had to be made as to whether to go down the blue staircase, or the red one.

As it happens, that didn’t matter too much as the audience was reunited in the main theatre with the camp host illuminated under ‘LIVE’ and ‘APPLAUSE’ signs that subjected you to manic hand-clapping and whooping. His minions created a panicked atmosphere as they snuck various whispered and written clues to certain audience members.

This is where you discover that it is in fact you, the audience, who is the player in this game. ‘And what happens to players?’ the host beams, ‘they get played!’ a pre-recorded tape shouts back.

The rules of the game were laid out as follows: You were to start on level three, and had forty minutes to make your way up to level one through nothing but your cunning, daring and deceit. If you see the white rabbits – and at that moment, two women in fitted blue dresses with the heads of huge white rabbits jumped to his side and began caressing the host – they will either lead you astray, or help you advance a level. ‘And what happens to players?’

At this moment, you really did feel, just like poor Keanu Reeves, tumbling down the rabbit hole. From then on, it was all teams go as you watched your fellow audience members who entered the game meek and excited, elbow you out the way and metamorphose into Lara Croft, or Mr Reeves himself.

Level three began in the bowels of the WYP, recreated as ‘Butcher’s Row’ which mildly resembled a Dickensian nightmare. There were fortune tellers, alcoholics and a whole cast of nervous wrecks and filthy street urchins to talk to, be talked at and gather clues from.

One of the most important ones I discovered to be, ‘tell the lift man you like his buttons’ which would take me up from Level 2, (once I found the lift man, of course). The most exhilarating thing about You: The Player was that it would be impossible for each audience member to have the exact same experience and interact with the same spaces and characters.

A narrow turning led myself and a few other unsuspecting ‘gamers’ into a room with a very large butcher chained to a table where he was simultaneously crying and dismembering someone. With the help of a generous white rabbit, I quickly escaped and found myself on level 2, scanned my QR code and smiled for the camera.

Wandering through the vast and narrow, labyrinthine corridors of The Players Maze, ominously lit in a crackling red light, it was very easy to get lost and scared and forget you were still in the familiar spaces of the WYP.

An assortment of eccentric characters and fractured vignettes including a young dreamer on level 2 who wanted to see the sky again, a funeral director, a dead girl who wheels past you in a coffin through a macabre kitchen only to wake up gasping for water, a dead angel atop a balcony and surrounded by contracts of souls. A trapped technician desperately peddling on an exercise bike in the control room of level 1 ensured that You: The Player completely and convincingly engulfed you in the game which lasted only one short hour.

When you finally reach level 1 you’re photographed, plied with champagne and then pushed out of the room by the unveiled white rabbits into the WYP’s bar.

And that’s it, the game’s over, and those who didn’t play are slightly puzzled as to why you look so exhilarated.

You: The Player succeeded in creating an exciting and dangerous world so convincing that some players became so involved with the game that they stole props to trade for clues and engaged in moral debates as to whether or not to save themselves or a character. The minutiae of very dark and funny intimate scenes contributed to the overall effect of the game, and revealed more sinister undertones of the dangers of virtual reality.

This interactive adventure was a unique experience which relied just as much on the cast and crew as the audience who had everything to play for.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: