The theatre company Error 404, performing The Hive at Camden People’s Theatre, defines itself as emerging in virtual immersive theatre and it actually seems like they might set a new trend on the post-pandemic scene. Their socially distanced show is entertaining, interactive, curious and quite innovative.
The Hive is a part of the FORM(AT) FESTIVAL, the festival that celebrates new work of drama students from London. The show presents a story of an induction day at a mysterious high-tech company – the titular Hive. The environment seems banal, boring and innocent, but only on the surface. As the training progresses, dirty and not so little secrets of the corporation unfold.
Curiously enough, the inductees are played by the audience, who become an interactive part of The Hive. Therefore, it is the audience who needs to decide what to with the company’s swindles. The actor and the star of the show, James Christensen, makes sure that they are involved yet simultaneously, comfortable and not intimidated. He engages in little discussions, expresses curiosity with the audience’s opinions but also, improvises and jokes effortlessly. Generally, he is a brilliant, funny, charming performer and entertainer.
The other actors, accompanying him on Zoom, have a tougher task to since there is a screen’s barrier between them and the audience. They do a great job anyway and convincingly put across the typical corporation personas and principles.
The audience, on the other hand, can ask questions and explore the office, essentially deciding about the course of the induction. Thus, the way The Hive is conducted and performed resembles the ‘Black Mirror’ interactive episode.
The Hive takes place on various grounds – in reality, on Camden People’s Theatre’s stage but also, online, with both the actors and the audience joining in through Zoom calls. This is why it feels so innovative and multidimensional, blurring the lines between live and online theatre. Perhaps, due to the current situation, these types of performance, are going to grow more and more popular.