Reality theatre

ZU-UK previewed two new shows in July as part of their Decalogy of Loneliness project. Binaural Dinner Date and Good Night, Sleep Tight are fully immersive pieces that blend real-time experiences with performance, technology and prepared scripts. ZU-UK research associate Joseph Dunne explains how it works and details their vision for VR and theatre.

Read the article in full in the August edition of International Arts Manager out now!

ZU-UK (formerly named Zecora Ura and Para Active), is an East London and Rio de Janeiro-based theatre and digital arts company that has been producing live art pieces since 2001. Our executive director Jorge Lopes Ramos and artistic director Persis-Jadé Maravala specialise in creating interactive performances using innovative models of audience participation and interaction.

For Jorge Lopes Ramos, the ambition is to create unique experiences for each participant that “constantly confound expectations of what a live performance can be”.

The two new shows we previewed in Stratford in July, Binaural Dinner Date and Good Night, Sleep Tight, display our skills in using an assortment of binaural sound, 360º video and virtual reality technologies to immerse audiences in theatrically playful worlds.

The premieres were performed ahead of a full London run at Theatre Royal Stratford East from 16 November to 3 December this year.

Artistic director Persis-Jadé Maravala with Jorge Lopes Ramos

Artistic director Persis-Jadé Maravala with Jorge Lopes Ramos

Binaural Dinner Date and Good Night, Sleep Tight are part of Decalogy of Loneliness, our 10-part project experimenting with interactive technologies and public space, developing performance models that include found audiences who can enter into the piece by chance or accident. For this reason, we staged the two shows inside and around Gerry’s Kitchen, a real café which continues its normal operation during the shows. During previews, capacity at each was around 96 people over four days, while for the main run it will increase to 72 per day.

For Binaural Dinner Date, we used the format of a blind date to explore the limits and possibilities of human interaction between six pairs of strangers. Participants state what they are looking for when they book a ticket (friendship, fun, love) and are coupled up with someone with compatible preferences.

The entire performance plays out as a mediated encounter, as participants are fed instructions over binaural headphones they wear throughout the 45-minute performance. During the inevitable cliché of a blind date, voices alternate between telling them what to say during an icebreaker and the daters’ own naturalistic conversation.

This is followed by an awkward silence that invites participants to gaze at the busy public throughway in front of the Theatre Royal bar opposite Gerry’s café, and urges them to contemplate the complex interactions they observe among the revellers in attendance. We structured Binaural Dinner Date as a circuit of games and storytelling. The participants are hosted by the waiter, W (played by Will Dickie), who congratulates them for displaying enormous faith in humanity for attending. W acts as a conventional waiter by serving drinks, but also plays the role of games master and romantic anti-hero.

W leads one circuit of games that range from staring contests to speed drawing. The winner of each game is rewarded with an intimate question that they then put to their partner.

Read the article in full in the August edition of International Arts Manager out now.

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