Our Marketing and Digital Media Officer saw The Unbuilt Room last night. In this choose-your-own blog, he tell us what he thought…
Hello! I’m James, one of the marketing team at Oxford Playhouse, and I’d like to talk to you about The Unbuilt Room (which is in Oxford from Mon 20 to Wed 22, with shows at 7pm & 8pm). I had a LOT of thoughts about this show, mainly incoherent glee but also some more rational thoughtful thoughts too. So, what would you like to know?
The plot, such as it is, is pretty simple. The writer/performer, Seth Kriebel (who seems like a charming fellow and has the kind of voice I want to read me bedtime stories) describes your surroundings and gives you a series of simple choices.
For example: to start with you are in a room! It looks a lot like the Crypt at Frewin Annexe where the show actually happens. The audience then get to choose options like “go upstairs”, “go north”, “climb tower” and other simple instructions. It’s like an old text-based adventure game. Remember those?
The puzzles and stories are pretty simple, but what makes them awesome is the way that Kriebel leads you through them in such captivating (and often amusing style). The descriptions are crisp, clear and evocative. The situations you find yourself in are just the right side of surprising. And did I mention that, seriously, the man has a voice and a way with words that made the hind parts of my brain purr happily.
But that isn’t all that makes the show interesting! Would you like to know more about what interesting about it?
So, interesting thing no. 1: it’s a show that puts the audience and their choices at the centre of the experience. You get to take it in turns to choose which bit of the world to explore. Like, it’s a simple world, roughly based on exploring a few locations in the city of Oxford, but the way it's described is really pleasantly pretty.
But, more than this, is interesting thing no. 2: there’s a second layer to the game. And that’s to do with working out the rules. Working out what you can do and what you can change. From the get-go, it gets to thinking about how the story and the world Seth leads you through works. It keeps your cogs turning all the way. Which is super cool to a theatre geek (and a regular geek) like me: there’s not just a world to explore, but there’s a game mechanic to figure out too!
And that leads on to interesting thing no. 3: as well as figuring out the plot/puzzle and the way the game works, there’s another layer to do with how you as an audience tackle this challenge. It’s not just a show you experience in silence. It’s not even a panto-esque show with some audience interaction. It’s a show that’s partly about that interaction. To say more would be a spoiler, but seriously: cool.
Interesting thing no. 4: uh, this one’s actually a surprise. But, like, that’s an interesting thing in itself: for a seemingly simple premise, it packs in a lot of surprises and thoughts. Your expectations will be subverted. And it will be awesome.
Other than these interesting things, you may also want to know:
OMG IT WAS SO GOOD! WE GOT TO MAKE CHOICES! THE AUDIENCE PLAYED A STORYTELLING GAME TOGETHER AND WE GOT TO THE END! STORYTELLING IS AMAZING, INTERACTIVITY IS SO COOL, WORDS ARE JUST REALLY GREAT OK?
SUCH WORLD. VERY BUILDING. WOW.
ARGH, THERE WAS A SIMPLE BUT COOL NARRATIVE AND AN AWESOME META-NARRATIVE AND RULES TO WORK OUT AND SETH KRIEBEL’S VOICE IS LIKE A COOL OCEAN BREEZE IN YOUR EARS AFDSRJLKJLKDJLKFJDDDDDD
Ahem. Yes. I enjoyed it. If you like interactive stories and well-executed, innovative ideas then you will enjoy it too. Probably a lot.
Now, my incoherent shouting aside, would you like:
Honestly, the coolest thing about being talked at in a crypt while you and your fellow audience make a series of interesting, amusing and baffling choices …
… it’s that you are doing it together.
Like, I’ve always thought there’s something lovely and pure and intimate about being told a story. About a show with no frills or trimmings: just you, the performer and some words. And this show takes that beautiful simplicity, and makes it something we all share and create together.
It helps that the lights stay on the whole time, so you can all see each other. And the moment when you can see someone furiously thinking their way through a decision, their face wrinkled up and their eyes wide with wonder is great.
There’s just something basic and important and almost primal about the act of sitting round in a circle and making a story happen between you.
So, that pseudo-philosophical rambling aside, would you like:
Uh, ok. Then you might be reading the wrong blog? But that’s cool, if this one isn’t your bag, then can I recommend reading about the latest update from Playhouse Playmaker? Or maybe you’d like to read about the other amazing show we have on this week?