City of Culture: Virtual reality theatre that dives into new experience

People don headsets for Frogman
People don headsets for Frogman
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Virtual reality will transport audiences to the depths of the Great Barrier Reef in supernatural coming-of-age thriller Frogman.

The ambitious show, which claims to be a world first in the way live theatre is fused with 360 film in Virtual Reality, opens at C4DI in Hull, from November 1 .

A screenshot as seen through the headsets

A screenshot as seen through the headsets

Frogman, which premiered earlier this year at Edinburgh Festival Fringe, centres around Meera, an 11-year-old Australian coral enthusiast.

It is the summer holidays and three friends are having a sleepover before their first day at high school.

The high school bully goes missing - presumed dead.

Rather like a diver putting on goggles, audience members don virtual headsets for key parts of the evidence, as they become members of the jury in the ensuing murder trial.

Frogman - at C4DI, Hull from November 1 -11

Frogman - at C4DI, Hull from November 1 -11

Artistic director Jack Lowe, of curious directive, said it promises a "really new experience for people."

He said: "This is actually integrating VR with theatre. We are using VR headsets to go back in time narratively, so we are watching how a story unravels as opposed to a standalone experience."

Once the headsets are on members of the audience can decide who to watch. He said: "You can look 360 degrees and you choose which character to watch as it is unravelling. You have a lot of agency as an audience member. It is a really new experience for people."

The co-production with Hull UK City of Culture 2017, The Deep and The Old Market, in association with Brisbane Powerhouse has been three years in the making and involved Jack travelling to Raja Ampat, the most eastern Island of the Indonesian Archipelago, to film the amazing abundance of pristine coral reef, as a stand in for the Great Barrier Reef of the 1990s.

If you went to the Great Barrier Reef now to film, Loew says, you "would just capture a tonne of bleached coral."

But the show is not pressing home an environmental message. For that you can see a video shot by Matt Cooper from independent production company Villager, who accompanied Jack to Raja Ampat.

It is both about the grim prospects for reefs as seas get warmer but also the "pockets of hope" in scientists' efforts to grow coral in nurseries which will be able to withstand climate change.

For tickets visit www.hull2017.co.uk. Frogman is on from November 1 - 11.