BEST BEFORE To 26 February.

Coventry

BEST BEFORE
by Helgard Haus and Stefan Kaegl.

Warwick Arts Centre (Theatre) University of Warwick CV4 7AL To 26 February 2011.
7.30pm.
Runs 1hr 50min No interval.

TICKETS: 024 7652 4524.
www.warwickartscentre.co.uk
Review: Timothy Ramsden 25 February.

Theatre meets computer games, made into theatre in a fascinating project.
Their connection with Rimini’s unclear, though the second part of Rimini Protokoll’s name apparently indicates this German collective follows their own mandate. Their work’s described as being on the border of reality and theatre; this show – one of several current projects, created last year for games-centre Vancouver – edges alongside theatre and virtual reality.

With a personal gaming controller for each seat, audience members control their own onscreen ball, making decisions as prompted. Each ball changes appearance following decisions, individuals win out and career choices offered reflect those of the cast. Decisions mix the personal and social – immigration and taxation included – combining the games player’s individual consciousness with the communal awareness of theatre.

Games rely on two things: conflict, as is stated, and simplified decisions, reflected in the positioning of balls to either side of the large screen. Advice from Duff Armour, who claims years of tedious games-proofing, begins as remembering it’s only a video game. It takes on a darker tone when talking of guns, and finally reverses to reflect on real-life: no tax rises? Then no point in asking about a health service.

This as audience members increasingly enjoy bouncing their ball, or come up at times with mass sentimental responses. And, as decisions move from the youthfully carefree, about drugs (from cannabis to heroin – it’s only a game), sex and pregnancy, to middle and old age (suicide anyone?) the impact of earlier choices comes home. A complete biography of four Presidential candidates is made available onscreen (hilariously, though it might not be in life, the President ends up in jail), and the trend to mid-play adverts in computer games gets mentioned.

Early on a decision had to be made about a strange question. Towards the end we find out why, as each audience is asked to lay down a question for the following night. Decisions do influence the future As Armour’s comments suggest, life’s not so simple as a game tries to make it; choices that over-simplify life lead to contradictions. And, fun while it lasts, at life’s end, the ‘Game Over’ is swift and final.

Cast: Duff Armour, James Foy, Ellen Schultz, Arjan Dhupia.
Musician: Ron Samworth.

Designer: Andreas Kahre.
Lighting: John Webber.
Sound: Stefan Smulovitz.
Video: Candelario Andrade.
Game Design: Brady Marks.
Character Animation/Modelling: Carl Emil Carlsen, John Warner.
Game Programming: Dan Coburn.
Gaming Project Coordination: Sean Arden.
Dramaturg: Tim Carlson.

2011-02-26 01:06:10

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