Is virtual reality the future? As part of the Brighton Digital Festival across the city, The Old Market is offering a series of virtual experiences this weekend – and Development Manager James Turnbull reckons it’s time for venues to switch things up…
Other live venues might see gaming and virtual reality as competition yet TOM is choosing to champion it…
I think we would be mad in the cultural sector to keep thinking gaming is a niche activity that just involves boys shooting at things. Many games invite players into beautiful, complex worlds that offer multiple perspectives on a narrative and are often more immersive than much of what we see on stage. It’s about time these two worlds shared best practice and explored what they can learn from one another. VR is a great opportunity for creatives from all backgrounds to tell ever more compelling stories. Also VR is cool. Like, really, really cool.
What do you think digital tech can bring to our experience of theatre, music, and the other work TOM puts on?
We should demand more from our venues. Whether for a gig or a show, as soon as you walk in the door, you should enter a new world that bombards your senses, blows your mind and leaves you wanting more. Technology can help make this a reality. There is no reason why gigs, for example, shouldn’t offer as much visual stimulation as they do aural. Intelligent lighting, projection, multi-directional sound, live cinema – these are all immersive experiences venues can help facilitate.
What’s the thinking behind the StoryHack conference?
StoryHack is our attempt to bring people from across the creative sectors together to explore how we can all make what we do better by working together. We’ll hear from some amazing artists doing just that and then host discussions with some of the key people who can make it happen – the funders, support organisations. Hopefully we’ll encourage people to forge new collaborations.
You’ve got some amazing kit to share…
Very few people have tried the HTC Vive, the industry leading system for VR. It never ceases to make me say ‘wow’ when I try it. The technology is so good it really feels you have been transported to a new world. vrLAB will see around 20 installations using Vive, Oculus Rift and other systems on show with some ground breaking content. We are lucky to be partnered with Make[Real], one of the leading developers for content in VR (and based just down the road from the venue, handily) who are bringing lots of their own work (including the outstanding racer game, Radial-G) as well as curating some work from other developers across the city. It’s leftfield for an arts venue to host something like that but I can’t wait.
What tech-driven shows and work have impressed you most in the past 12 months?
We had 1927’s Golem here in January. The team behind the show are peerless for their ability to integrate animation, live performance, music and story. We hope to have them back soon. Helen, the programmer here, and I saw a mind-blowing show in Norwich for the festival there called San Objet, by French artist d’Aurelien Bory, which had two dancers thrown around by a massive industrial machine (the type that fits car doors in automated factories). The sheer power of the thing when on a stage was equally frightening and awesome. Alas, it stands at seven metres full height so we can’t cant get it here – I hope one of the other venues in the city programme it so people can see it here soon.
If someone can only see one TOM show at this year’s festival, what should it be?
Come to vrLAB. It’s an amazing chance to experience the cutting edge of VR for yourself. As you come in for three hour blocks, there is plenty of time to jump on all the exhibits and have a drink with your mates inbetween. If theatres are places you go to try something new and reach beyond your comfort zone, this is a great opportunity to do so.
vrLab, The Old Market, 16th-18th September 2016
Friday sold out, Saturday 10am & 6pm, Sunday 10am. £15/£10