Curious about the future of theatre? Then you’re in for a treat this September as Hove venue The Old Market hosts a spectacular three-day virtual reality takeover that’s set to leave audiences reeling.
Part of the month-long Brighton Digital Festival, vrLAB will fill every space in the historic Upper Market Street location with performances, experiences and visuals that all explore the fast-developing world of virtual reality (VR) and the ways this technology is changing our experience of live events.
Over the course of the three-hour sessions, audiences can try out more than 15 cutting-edge VR experiences, including futuristic full-immersion arcade racers, an owl’s eye trip through a forest, a virtual reality art lesson and a theatre performance viewed through an Oculus Rift headset, as well as having the opportunity to meet some of the biggest names in VR development.
Some of the work will enchant audiences; London collective Marshmallow Laser Feast’s In The Eyes of The Animals offers a 360-degree cinematic experience told from the viewpoint of the animal inhabitants of a forest – a must-see for families. Others use VR to make some hard-hitting points. The Guardian’s ‘virtual journalism’ piece 6X9, recreates the experience of a US solitary confinement cell through the stories of those who have been incarcerated in one.
Creations like Tammeka Games’ gut-wrenching and thrilling multi-player racing game Radial-G, which invites audiences to ‘climb into the cockpit of a futuristic race craft and tear up the anti-gravity track’, will blow minds. The HTC Vive Discovery experience Tilt Brush, which invites people to try their hand at ‘painting’ in a 3D space, might just expand them.
In the performance category, check out transmedia artist Simon Wilkinson’s unsettling mystery The Cube – described by A Younger Theatre as “a thrilling taster of how cutting edge technologies and theatre may go hand in hand in the future” – which blends Unity 3D and Oculus Rift VR technologies with the time-honoured art of storytelling. Wilkinson also presents new works, How Can I Ease Your Mind Without Lying? and Slave To Mortal Rage, which uses room-scale VR.
And for a taste of the way VR is being used in the commercial arena, leading VR developers Make Real who are co-hosting vrLAB, will introduce participants to one of their virtual reality games Top of the Crop. Created for a leading fast food chain, the game takes users to the heart of the company’s supplier farms using Oculus Rift headsets to recreate the experience of driving a tractor during a potato harvest. They will be judged on speed, accuracy and the quality of the crop.
The Old Market’s Development Manager James Turnbull, who is overseeing the venue’s programme for Brighton Digital Festival, describes vrLAB as “a virtual reality world unlike any other.” He adds, “in what we believe is a first for a UK arts venue, we’ve brought together a huge selection of mind-blowing VR experiences to showcase all the ways artists, makers, designers and journalists are exploring these new technologies to broaden the way we experience the world around us. This is a really exciting time for technology and as a venue, we’re curious about how these developments are going to change the way we experience live events.”
vrLAB builds on 2015’s Industrious Creatives programme, launched by The Old Market last year to assist theatre makers and other artists to explore the potential of new technologies in enhancing and developing storytelling. It’s just one event in #TOMtech – an impressive new programme of tech and digital-inspired performance at The Old Market this September, which includes Pattern Recognition, a dance piece that uses a system of moving lights to track and respond to the movements of dancers on stage, SuperEverything*, a spectacular live cinema performance project by The Light Surgeons in collaboration with Malaysian artists, and Visions of the Future, a boundary-testing journey to the limits of live music technology.
Dates & Times:
Fri 16 Sept, 7pm- 10pm Sat 17 Sept, 10am – 1pm, 2pm – 5pm & 6pm – 9pm Sun 18 Sept, 10am – 1pm & 2pm – 5pm
Each session lasts three hours.
Tickets: £10 standard / £15 premium ticket (guarantees entry to In the Eyes of the Animal)