VOID is unique and hugely daring; its form is entirely distinct from other productions, leaving you shaken and intrigued, searching for clearer lines between reality and fiction.
There are two cargo containers set up for this visceral one-on-one experience. In the first one, you are plunged into blackness, enveloped within a girl’s story about sexual abuse. Forcibly and inescapably confrontational, this play offers no chance for thoughts to wander. The environment creates an immersive, full-body experience that leaves you with no choice but to listen acutely to the relentlessly abrasive soundscape, whilst the blackness encases your senses.
In the second cargo container a man leads you into his realm, whilst he paints army figurines. It feels as if you’re intruding upon your slightly suspect neighbour’s shed, as he conducts his idiosyncratic weekend hobby. He tumultuously voices another story of sexual exploitation, this time a retrospective one, from the perspective of the assaulter rather than the victim. But the distance established by time does not make it any easier to stomach, as he delves deeply into his store of adolescent memories. He believes he once forced himself onto a girl, but didn’t understand the weight of his decision at the time. His shaking uncertainty conveys the sense he still does not understand, giving rise to a pervading feeling of discomfort, as he grapples with a guilt that he cannot quantify, justify or comprehend. The presence of another person is clearly alienating and isolating. This nervous, anxiety-ridden presence with which you share the space with, only accentuates the feeling of being alone, as he is impossible to connect with.
VOID is a collaboration between the Theatre Company RIFT and Queen Mary University. It is a research project exploring the insidious nature of sexual assault in the present state of society, particularly as a consequence of blurred boundaries and ingrained misogyny.
The sheer intensity of the 30-minute experience ensures that it lingers long after you resume your everyday routine in the real world, surrounded once again by comfortable normality. In a time when discussion of appropriate sexual behaviour feels omnipresent, VOID has succeeded in creating a piece of art that reignites the discussion in a thoroughly progressive way. The intensely personal nature of this experience makes it a journey of self-exploration, as well as a social commentary. It evidences the exciting potential of virtual reality, which can create a hyper-believable scenario in order to evoke empathy. In a similar way, the explorative nature of VOID suggests that theatre can incorporate this medium to continue to augment its emotive potential.
VOID played at The Vaults until 18 March
Photo: The Vaults