Still recovering from the weekend? As usual, you get online and start flicking through social media to see what have your friends been up to. If all you see is baby pictures, housing renovations and dinner arrangements, consider entering a website titled ‘Had a rough night?’ This is the starting point to the lives of four friends, Declan, Liv, Jamie and Sarah. All you know about them is that they just had a really rough night this weekend.
A good example of the ongoing immersive story-led theatre trend.
Consider these facts: Liv thinks she’s got a great acting job overseas but something went wrong and she was rejected. Jamie has just flown back home for good, but knows there are too many memories to haunt him. Declan wakes up on a beach, with more money on him than he had yesterday. And worst of all, Sarah has gone missing. According to her friends, she just walked into the night. Sarah’s last post is that she’s ok, but nobody should try to contact her. Sarah is emotionally unstable and her ex-boyfriend Jared might have something to do with it. So, who is Jared and how can you find his feed?
Some people have made stalking their friends on social media an art form, but the Tempest Theatre Co makes it the centrepiece of their multichannel narrative. Leaning towards the Hangover films, Rough Night urges you make friends with the characters, snoop around their social media accounts and follow the events around and after the fatal night Sarah went missing. You are encouraged to interact with the characters and just like your friends, they may reply, if they feel like it. The outcome of the performance is impacted by your decisions as to participate in unravelling the mystery.
Rough night explores how we build our identities on social media. Can we make an impression on people just by looking at their social media feeds? It is scary how quickly you stick labels on people based on their posts and retweets. Musician into self-help. Actress wannabe and sci-fi geek. Unstable party girl. Politically oriented wanderer. And in no time, you’re hooked. The New Zealand based Tempest Theatre Co does a great job in uniting character-based storytelling and real-time interaction between people. You search through tweets, discover new characters and look for hidden blogs and passwords.
Rough Night is a good example of the ongoing immersive story-led theatre trend. You are very much an active participant in tracing the characters’ steps to unveil the story and solve the mystery. Somewhere between a play and a game, narratives like this question our digital personas and demand us to examine our own appearance on social media. The downside of interactive theatre is that its success is purely dependent on audience participation. At the time of writing this, there isn’t any other activity to show for than the characters’ own social media posts. So, whatever happened to Sarah? Nobody knows yet, we have to continue searching the feeds to see how the story ends.