Immersive experience is a phrase currently thrown around freely in production blurbs, the majority of which refer to a singular touch that an actor inflicts upon a lone audience member or the spacing of a show that deposits the audience amongst the action, like cushions. Immersive is now a term that has a wide and ambiguous reach. Welcome Home, from theatre company Infinite Experience, is less a theatre show and more a moving art piece, in terms of the new scale of immersive that we find ourselves in, it is on the more daring end of the spectrum.
The piece begins with audience members being ushered through the office doors and into the arena. They are met with a new world with areas to explore and interact with. Rather than a lone narrative, each individual may chose their own path through the room, with gentle assistance from the actors. There are around nine different options, each with their own tasks and information. The actors do a fantastic job of engaging the audience in their world with each section of the room appearing to have a keeper who maintains that particular section.
The overall production is a tad undercooked; it may be worth reworking some of the scenes to finesse the mechanics. The time spent milling around felt a tad too stretched; more scenes of narrative direction would be welcome. Yet, the energy and sentiment is one that should be applauded.
The overall gist of the piece is that the citizens are working to the bone for tokens that make up their economy, the price of which keeps rising and rising. They are captained by a dictator who lords over them from a room in the corner, peering out of film noir-style shutters. The piece evokes Nineteen Eighty-Four in its exploration of totalitarianism.
The action escalates towards the end and a conclusion or sorts is reached: the marketplace dissolves and Welcome Home becomes more surreal. Post denouement, the lights are dimmed and the audience are ‘invited to close their eyes’. Cast members take individuals by the hand, guiding them round the space, reacting to an ethereal soundtrack. The whole room engages in this activity, numbing any potential embarrassment.
It’s a nice touch, and if you’re game, there will certainly be a feeling of liberation as you leave the imagined world of Infinite Experience.
The show is not for the faint of heart. If you shudder at the thought of participatory theatre, Welcome Home isn’t for you, but anyone with a sense of theatrical adventure should dive straight down to the show’s bonkers depths.
Welcome Home is playing at Theatre Delicatessen until 5 July. For tickets and more information, see the Theatre Delicatessen website.