All this online reviewing is just like keeping a log book of my journey and the various events which occur; and that’s handy as you will shortly see. It’s been a while since I tried my hand at one of the various interactive theatrical experiences that are available online. I’d previously thoroughly enjoyed the work of CtrlAlt Repeat with Sherlock Holmes And The Case Of The Symmetric Mailshot, The Temporal Society and especially Viper Squad which won the OnComm award for Best Immersive/Interactive show. When I saw that writer of the latter, James Dillon, was running his own, as it were, solo album project I made that the one I headed for. I expected to be engaged, entertained and challenged – and I was.
The show is called Siren; it takes the tropes of the sci-fi horror genre (there’s a heavy debt to Alien here) and throws the audience into the middle of the action. The spaceship Atropos has sent out a distress call and participants are the team from the Anthem Corporation back on earth guiding, advising and supporting Jacob our man on the ground – or rather up in space – who is sent to investigate. The mission is trying to discover what happened to the ship and its crew and whether there is anybody left to rescue. But there’s something sinister aboard (of course there is) and everything becomes a race against time before whatever it is can get to Jacob and end things prematurely for all concerned.
The participants are deliberately limited in number and are given various roles – security officer, cyber consultant and so on. These are assigned on the basis of some preliminary moral choice dilemmas and these are not easy to decide on either but do eventually have some bearing on the action itself. By some bizarre choice process, I found myself designated Acting Captain but was definitely less Kirk and more Mainwaring in my responses.
Thankfully I had a crew who were much better at this stuff than me so, if you’re reading this, apologies to Ellie, Steven, Molly and Phil(s) and thanks for not instituting a mutiny. Of course, the real leader, subtly suggesting how to proceed, is Jacob and writer James Dillon plays the role with aplomb creating a creditable character and being brilliant at cracking one liners and improvising responses as the various situations demands. For this is a show with multiple pathways and potentially infinite outcomes as the plan of rescue and escape comes together.
Although Dillon is the only actor we see he is ably supported by the voice work of Grace Davis (Captain Bailey) and a trio of characters from Carl Dolamore including the ever present on board computer EARL (shades of 2001 but without the malicious intent). And then there’s the team behind the team who have built all the graphics (Becky Docherty), developed an intense soundscape (Elsie Watkinson) and even supplied Jacob with quite realistic costuming (Suzanne Knight). There’s an accompanying website which contains all sorts of goodies needed to play the game so having a pair of screens is really handy as you flip back and forth as needed to consult crew manifests, door codes and crucially, in our version anyway, instructions about how to wire the ship’s electrical systems.
Having worked on one award winning interactive show, James Dillon can be equally proud of his achievements this time round as writer, director and live performer. He has come up with a format high on tension and requiring quick thinking and the ability to make rapid decisions – Boris Johnson need not apply! The show is only having a brief run so early booking is advisable (there’s a discount code on the relevant Facebook page) The event has quite evidently been developed with care and attention to detail – there’s even a nifty Zoom background you can download to help set the tone. This is certainly a show that it would be rewarding to revisit in order to take a different path and reach a different resolution. In my case I might even have a better idea of what actually I was doing and really earn that promotion.