British theatre company Curious Directive continue their fascination with science and technology by taking immersive theatre virtual. Their latest show, Frogman, combines live storytelling with VR headsets for audience members. Director Jack Lowe's production takes place at Codebase, the Traverse's offsite location around the corner from the theatre.
In a darkened room, we sit around a rectangular space. Meera Clarke (Tessa Parr), who has grown up next to the Great Barrier Reef, off the coast of Queensland, Australia, is informed by an unseen DCI Fiona Webb that her dad has been arrested for suspected murder. In 1995, when Meera was just 11, her friend Ashleigh disappeared. Now, a boat has been found.
In between scenes of the grown-up Meera (a compelling Parr) gradually recalling what happened on the night Ashleigh vanished, we put on our headsets for virtual reality interludes that drop us into Meera's childhood bedroom and into the ocean metres above the Barrier Reef, as police divers search for evidence.
Lowe's and Russell Woodhead's story is lovely about small-town life and the reverberating importance of childhood friendships. The quartet of child actors who play young Meera and her friends are as believable as the engrossingly detailed bedroom we can look around while wearing our headsets.
But Frogman's beautiful imagery and ideas aren’t matched by a clear enough narrative role for the VR tech. The suggestion that we are watching "evidence" doesn't marry with the experience. It's hard to lose yourself in the moment when you're not entirely sure why you're there.