During the period of lockdown and the closure of theatres, artists and companies have been driven to find new ways to reach out to their audiences. Interesting new forms of art have emerged in the drive to connect, create and stay cultured. Artists and companies have been compelled to think outside the box and take their practice into new areas.
This new virtual reality show, Petrichor, by Manchester-based theatre company ThickSkin uses digital technology to create a 360° virtual performance space for the audience.
The show can be experienced in-person inside the foyer at The Lowry (socially distanced and Covid-safe) or on your own in the comfort of your own home. For the performance, you are required to wear a VR headset. I chose to experience the performance at home: I received my cardboard headset, assembled it (comes with simple instructions) and settled down to watch the performance.
Featuring two performers, Ayesha Fazal and Dominic Coffey, the performance fuses physicality and storytelling with animated projections and a brand-new soundscape to create a cinematic experience for the audience. Set in the dystopian parallel universe of Petrichor, the performance examines themes around human connection, escape and a world without artistic expression. Using starkly repetitive choreography and an industrial-inspired soundtrack, the two personas subscribe to the cyclical existence of work, eat and sleep.
That is… until a chance meeting brings them together and offers them a glimpse of what life could be like on the other side.
Enveloping and wholly engaging, the performance takes place around the audience. As a spectator, you find yourself choosing to turn your head to follow the action. Directed by Jonnie Riordan and Jess Williams, it’s a clever concept which is well-executed by ThickSkin and their filmic collaborators TripleDotMakers.
Recommended for those aged 13 and up, the show runs at approximately 30 minutes. Perhaps most importantly, at a time when human connection feels more vital than ever, Petrichor offers an immersive, accessible and unique way to experience theatre.
Petrichor runs at The Lowry until 1 November 2020 and then at Oldham Coliseum from 20-21 November 2020. Full tour details are here.
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