Is virtual reality the future of theatre?
It looks like a weird experiment. In the foyer of Home in Manchester, four people sit at booths, virtual reality headsets covering their faces. Their heads gently sway for no apparent reason and strange, unannounced movements make for oddly compelling viewing for those in the box-office queue. And then, four minutes later, they unpeel the goggles from their eyes, smiling.
They’ve just experienced My Name Is Peter Stillman, a virtual-reality companion piece to 59 Productions’ adaptation of Paul Auster’s City of Glass, currently playing in the main theatre space. It’s a fascinating little work taking place in one room that participants can explore as the character moves in strange ways in front of your very eyes.
“When we started developing City of Glass, it became obvious that it was a perfect vehicle for VR, because it’s all about multiple realities and identity,” says My Name Is Peter Stillman’s director Lysander Ashton, also video director for the main show. “That’s what VR does – it places you in the shoes of someone else. It felt like a really good thing to explore.”