Renowned theatre-makers curious directive return to London for the first time since 2016 with their boldly ambitious Frogman. This much admired coming-of-age VR thriller was the must-see show at the Edinburgh festival last year for its cutting-edge staging, fusing virtual reality with live theatre.
We caught up with curious directive’s Jack Lowe to find out more.
Frogman is coming to Shoreditch Town Hall and Arts Depot, what can you tell us about it?
It’s a show about the fragility of the childhood imagination. It’s set in 1995 and explores a burgeoning relationship between an 11 year old girl and a 13 year old girl in a fictional coastal town in Queensland, Australia. It’s about outsiders in a town and what we believe is true as children. But it’s also set now and audience members wear VR headsets to see back then. It’s unique.
Where did the inspiration to mix live theatre and VR come from?
The idea was never to mix live with VR, the story just needed it. That sounds glib but it’s true.
How will it work for the audience?
You’ll have to wait and see…but we make it easy. Like a duck across a pond, there’s a lot more going on that you realise or feel. You just feel like it’s a play for an audience of 50 and we have a story to tell.
It was really popular at the Edinburgh Fringe, what changes have you made for London?
We’re experimenting with the number of performers in the show. We’ve added Aysha Kala for the run at Shoreditch Town Hall, this was originally a voice over part. It’s exciting because we’re experimenting and learning what works and what feels odd with live theatre and the magic world of VR.
Tell us about the VR cast, where did you find them?
The cast ranges from the brilliant Johnny Flynn, who I’ve always admired as a singer and actor, to Australian actors I’ve known for many years. It also includes a group of young Australian actors who we worked with in Brisbane to make the show last year.
What challenges have you faced mounting a production like Frogman?
Imagine working with a storytelling tool which hasn’t been used on this scale in live performance before…that’s really just the start of it! Developing software, filming underwater, building a film set in another country – and communicating a vision to people who aren’t normally working together, let alone an audience who’ve never seen anything like it before.
Frogman is at London’s Shoreditch Town Hall from 4th to 14th April and the Artsdepot from 17th to 21st April. It will then travel to Norwich Theatre Royal from 24th to 28th April with further autumn UK and International dates to be announced shortly.