Theatre with a twist – The Rise And Fall of Geo Goynes by Root Experience

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I’m always looking for new and interesting theatrical experiences and last week I took part in a prototype performance of a new piece of interactive theatre in Central London – The Rise And Fall of Geo Goynes, developed by Root Experience.

Root Experience explores audience interaction through theatrical performances. In its own words the company “plays with audience and performer relationships through improvisation, gaming techniques and compassionate interactive practices, investigating the world from both a personal and social point of view.”

Their new production, which ran prototype performances last week at St James Theatre Studio, merges interactive theatre with a gaming format, splitting the group of players in to three teams, each of which has a important mission to achieve.On arrival at the theatre, each of us was given a phone and headset, together with an envelope with our mission, which we had to read and keep secret from everyone else playing the game and were told our contact would be in touch.

Once the game has begun you rendezvous with your team (although a few of us in my team were initially unsure whether we could even trust each other!) and your contact, who will help you try and complete your mission. This involves interaction with actors spread out across the streets of the playing zone, whether trying to extort information, negotiating their assistance or simply surveillance in order to progress through the mission. All the time other actors are in play as enemy agents who you have to avoid coming in to direct contact with. The actors were all brilliant and brought to life the reality of the story within which the game is set (I can’t give that away though!). In true espionage style, by being out on the streets, you are never quite sure whether someone who looks suspicious is part of the show or just a passerby, which adds to the fun.

The way your team achieves its mission is also down to you. How will you persuade someone to give you information? How can you distract someone to achieve an objective? It is great to have the freedom to decide what you are going to do (with the encouragement of your contact). I also thought it was a great way to meet new people and I would suggest that if going along to a future show friends split up in to different teams if possible. You will get so much more from it if you don’t simply stick with your friends.

Root Experiene has already carried out workshops for Geo Goynes in Brighton and York and the game is still being developed. These prototype shows certainly seemed to gain a positive reaction from those attending with me and it was interesting to hear from others there who had attended previous workshops how much the show had already developed. I would say that something needs to be built in to deal with latecomers or those who take too long to reach the first team meeting point, as my team waited quite a long time to get going, which I imagine must cause issues for the other teams in play (as some of the actors need to rotate around the teams as different characters during the show). I have already heard however that this is something Root Experience are incorporating in to the game and even with this delay the game flowed extremely well, highlighting the huge amount of planning that the Root Experience team has done.

I really think experiences like this are a great way to get people who perhaps are less interested in straight theatre involved in something fun and a little different (a few years ago I took some friends along to a theatrical style treasure hunt called Accomplice which they loved). I have heard that Root Experience are hoping to return to London towards the end of 2014 and I will certainly go along to see how the game has been further developed and would recommend you do the same if you have the opportunity.

For further information visit Root Experience’s Facebook page, follow them on Twitter at @rootexperience or visit their website  http://www.rootexperience.co.uk   

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