'Should I stay or should I go now? If I go, there will be trouble, and if I stay it will be double.' The classic Clash song says it all. You are trapped inside an invisible box in the middle of a desert. A voice in your head is urging you to escape, while a guide outside the box tries to convince you to stay inside, safe from danger. Who do you trust? What do you do when reality breaks down around you?
Expect the unexpected!
A Box in the Desert is a playful, yet thought-provoking, immersive theatre performance set in virtual reality. It can also be described as an interactive escape room game. One person at a time is trapped inside a box, both physically and virtually. In order to escape, you get help from two characters: a voice inside your head and a guide outside the box, performed by an actor or actress, with whom you can interact.
In virtual reality, it is possible to do swift changes from normality to a completely different environment. You can journey into space, to the bottom of the ocean – or inside yourself. Hooked to a VR headset and controllers, you can move freely and react to circumstances. As you dictate what happens, the experience is different for everyone.
The main theme evolves around freedom. What does freedom mean to you and what are you willing to do to free yourself? Is being safe but trapped better than being free but unprotected? Personally, I had no desire to stay inside the box. Think outside of the box – that’s my motto. Unfortunately there is not much else I can tell you without spoiling the experience. Just expect the unexpected!
A Box in the Desert is the brainchild of Icelandic writer-actress-producer Nanna Gunnars and British virtual reality designer Owen Hindley. Ástþór Ágústsson and Nanna Gunnars alternate in the two acting roles. In addition to sold-out performances around Europe, the show has also won Stockholm Fringe's Innovation in Performance award and the main prize for A MAZE Festival's Most Amazing Game award.
The chunky wired Oculus Rift headset is a bit uncomfortable and the Unity graphics are not the best quality. Then again, this is a story-driven experience, so never mind. It is a great story, full of moral choices and their consequences. The deeper meanings will probably hit you afterwards, as the 20-minute experience flies by very quickly. If you have never tried VR, this is a great place to start. Experienced VR users can truly appreciate the narrative excellence. Either way, just open your mind and enjoy the ride.