I got involved with Root Experience in March 2013, and it’s been an incredible six months. Our director, Simon Magnus has been expertly building up the company since 2006 – exploring interactive theatre and immersive audience environments. The Rise and Fall of Geo Goynes represents a shift to a totally participant led experience based on urban and digital gaming and played across the streets of Brighton.
Root Experience has always worked quite intimately with their audience, endowing them with a role in the drama and keeping them connected to the experience through close contact with actors. To create an outdoor game, Simon realized that he needed to strip all of this away. What was essential for the game-play was for audience members to communicate with each other.
We began a residency at Lighthouse, a fab digital agency who worked closely with us to set up Plays Series – workshops exploring how digital tech and theatre games could be merged. WhatsApp provided a solid cross-platform free messaging service with bonus features of sending pictures and locations. Using this app we devised several games, which were great fun and I particularly remember the thrill of hiding in lifts and cupboards and being able to send jokes and photos to other players. We explored all the functions of WhatsApp and grew frustrated with the unreliability of wifi connections, the variation in handsets and the restriction of typing onto small screens.
Simon knew that his game needed the right digital technology – something that left the participants hands free and their eyes able to look around them for clues and other players. Thankfully, the answer was right around the corner.
We started a conversation with Twilio, a fantastic company who have been instrumental in the development of The Rise and Fall of Geo Goynes. They create automated telephone services – Press 1 for…Press 2 for – the sort of thing that usually drives you mad when you really need to talk to a person. But by transferring the digital player interaction to an audio form, Root Experience saw the massive potential for using this technology creatively.
Participants can select options to make choices during a story they are totally immersed in and they can speak directly to other players. Also, we can record audio tracks to play at certain points during the show to immerse the players further into the world and deliver clues.
Twilio have sponsored The Rise and Fall of Geo Goynes – giving us credits to call using their system. During September, Simon and myself and the rest of Root Experience will be undertaking a residency with Blast Theory – the pioneers of digital, interactive audience experiences. We will be working closely with a developer to transfer the structure and narrative of the story onto the Twilio system.
We have run several interesting game trials in Brighton over the summer, inviting participants to play prototype versions of the show and feedback any improvements that we can make. We really need people to continue to trial the game throughout September, so if you are interested you can sign up here.
You can check out our BDF listing and buy tickets for the performance on the last weekend of the festival here.
– Jessica Cheetham – Assistant Director, Root Experience