In September 2019, Nottingham-based theatre company Chronic Insanity set themselves a goal to produce and share 12 shows within 12 months. As a company, led by Nat Henderson and Joe Strickland, they thrive to push every boundary within a theatrical-context. Fascinated by each element of the process from idea, to rehearsal and through to performance, they record and document their work to be as accessible as possible to encourage others to learn from them. In addition to this, the company aim to use sustainable theatre practices, and film all their performances in regular and 360 degree formats.
Nearing the end of their yearlong project and challenged by the everchanging theatre environment that Coronavirus presents, Chronic Insanity have truly embraced the concept of ‘digital theatre.’ Created by Tennexa Freeman and Joe Strickland (who also directed the piece alongside Schereeya Reed) Myles Away is an adaptation from an original piece that is to be presented alongside Nottingham Pride, with Near Now and Broadway Cinema.
Part digital theatre, part VR and part escape room, you’re right in the midst of the drama, whilst each of your interactive choices influence how the story pans out. Myles had a life-changing idea – an alternative reality utopia that would allow an individual to delve into a virtual gender reassignment. The technology AWAY would challenge perspectives, enrich life and offer the underprivileged a new found freedom. However, once a money-making company gets involved, the plan for this virtual reality becomes more elitist as they inflict their control, restricting access and modifications by implementing payment plans in order to sell the ‘product.’ After being laid off and feeling discriminated, Myles wants to stop this, seeing the danger in this once beautifully freeing concept.
As you begin your experience, you are asked to choose an avatar and it all feels very exciting, like you’re embarking on a Sims journey. However, the system changes and you’ve been hacked. It’s Myles, fret not, reaching to you for help. As the story of AWAY unravels, the language is poetic, tense and gripping. There’s a lot of information to get through which feels rushed but there’s a lot of topics raised including discrimination, capitalism and elitism.
Switching between narration, video scenes and interactive sections you really are complicit in this journey, to the point where you may have to take notes and send a real-life email! The design is simple yet effective, but the detail in the material is astounding – there are so many layers to this virtual world to the point where you might even come across some sloth videos (people always do have the most random information stored on their files.)
Myles Away exposes the nature of capitalism by confronting the consumer who always takes a product for granted. It’s part of society to rarely question how a product got to you. Although it’s a fun and interactive piece, it’s also informative. Who knows, maybe in this journey Myles’ virtual product will still be able to change perspectives, just not in the way they intended.
Myles Away is streaming between 27th July and 2nd August. For more information, see the Chronic Insanity website.