After the Pinter plays, I dashed over the bridge to present myself at the stage door for "Draw Me Close" - a multi-sensory performance, on a 1:1 basis. I had no idea what to expect...
Draw Me Close takes the genre of immersive theatre and turns it on its head.
Written by respected Canadian writer and director Jordan Tannahill, the story takes you back into his memories of being a child, living at home with his mother, as the adult Jordan reckons with his mother’s recent breast cancer diagnosis.
Using a virtual reality headset I walked into another person's world and quickly became the new identity. I'm not going to reveal too much about the story line, but you do get led along by an actor, who guides you though the anguish and the highs with care and respect. There is some physical contact, and a chance to explore the rooms you find yourself in; once the VR part is over there is a surprise second part to the performance (no spoilers!) which enhanced the whole experience, and helped me to understand the technical process.
A few things: were ethical considerations addressed by the producer? Something I will investigate. Big issues arose during the performance, and who knows how deeply people are going to be affected; I worry about the actor involved in case she comes across someone who can't cope with the intensity and personal nature of the work. Timings: I was asked via email to make sure I arrived five minutes before my booked time so I dutifully did so only to find that there had been technical glitches and I didn't in act enter the theatre until 45 mins later! Eventually I received an apology - thank you Young Vic - always worth listening to people before you become defensive. Learning point: The more I plan my next performance the less technical I want it to become!
In general, this was an extraordinary experience so if you get the chance (tickets very rare) do go along. Their ability to involve the punter in such a heartfelt piece, and the sheer feeling of amazement and wonder in virtual reality were brilliant. Yes, the story was sad but this is part of life and through this cathartic experience, memories of my parents for example, and thoughts of my own children's futures, my health and so on, I left the theatre feeling enriched and personal priorities became clearer. No, it wasn't a therapy session I promise you, but it was a totally immersive experience and each person will take their own reading of it and carry it home with thoughts and feelings buzzing.