Frogman

The Spring is a small place where big things happen. So it’s no surprise to find it hosting an innovative show at the cutting edge of theatre technology. Here, Sophie Fullerlove, director of The Spring, explains what theatre lovers can expect from Frogman, a play partly told in virtual reality.

I’m really interested in contemporary and visual theatre and here at The Spring we like to programme work that is beyond what you might expect of a small scale arts centre.

Virtual reality is an exciting medium that’s been used in gaming and some visual arts for the past few years but is gradually making its presence felt in theatre. This was an opportunity to present a new experience to our audiences.

My husband is really interested in virtual reality. We have a head set at home so I’ve been lucky enough to have some pretty other-worldly experiences. I was really interested to see how that could play out in a storytelling context, mixing live drama with virtual reality.

The audience will be seated in-the-round and will be transported between a teenager’s bedroom and then underwater to the Great Barrier Reef.

At times the audience will be asked to put on individual virtual reality headsets but will be given clear instructions on how and when to do this. Part of the performance will be played out in front of them live. I suppose virtual reality is a clever way of changing locations and atmosphere within the story.

To make sure we can do it effectively, we’ve had to limit the capacity to only 30 at each show (there are four shows in total). We want the audience get the best out of the experience.

This is new thing for us at The Spring and it’s difficult to say who it will appeal to. Certainly anyone who likes an interesting story - or crime thrillers on TV for example - and anyone who’d like to try something a bit different, who likes contemporary theatre, gamers or people who have always wanted to scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef during a coral bloom!

It’s probably too soon to tell if this is the future of theatre. The best thing to do is to come and see for yourself!

There will always be an element of ‘liveness’ required in theatre as that is part of what makes it different from cinema or other entertainment. 

A shared experience is really important too, so I think it’s imperative that everyone has a similar experience at one time.

I think it’s more likely that virtual reality will become a medium in its own right. Technology should always be used to enhance work and not be the sole basis for producing it. That’s exactly what Frogman has achieved.