Macbeth spin-off brings Choose Your Own Adventure to the stage

A new production from immersive theatre makers, ImmerCity, will tell the story of Fleance – a character from Shakespeare’s Macbeth who disappears from the original play after his father, Banquo, is murdered.

Macbeth spin-off brings Choose Your Own Adventure to the stage

The production, Blood Will Have Blood, will use audio technology that sends different signals to each of the 12 audience members. Depending on which choices the audience members make, the story they hear in their ears will adapt and carry along divergent paths.    

“We’re interested in the tension between destiny and free will as a mirror for the tension between choice and narrative,” the show’s creator, Clancy Flynn, explains. “Fleance, much like Macbeth, is the subject of prophecy. It drives Macbeth mad, but we never see how Fleance engages with it, or even if he’s aware of his fated identity.”

Embodying Fleance, individual audience members will be able to make choices during the 40-minute production that affect the character’s development and the Scotland he inhabits. Flynn tells me the branching audio directions that arise from various interactions lead to 13 separate endings.  blood_will_have_photo_3_bw

“To make this possible, we run 14 individual audio channels through an external sound card – one per audience member, plus consolidated feeds for the operator and the performer – controlled via QLab,” she says. “It’s a massive cue stack, with thousands of audio cues to allow for different behaviours in the space of the 40-minute production. A lot of effort has gone into streamlining that interface. For the operator, it should work a lot like documenting 12 people’s progress through a video game.”

Looking to games for inspiration

Games are an explicit reference point for both Flynn and ImmerCity’s artistic director, Rosanna Mallinson. Flynn cites BioWare’s roleplaying epic, Dragon Age: Inquisition, as an influence – notably the way in which the game makes interactions between characters seem natural, even though there are a limited number of programmed conversation options.

“There are a lot of things that video games have been able to explore that I think immersive theatre aspires to,” she says. “The feeling of being in a world, and having a cohesive narrative that you can actually effect – that’s my passion in games and in theatre.”dragon_age_inquisition

(Above: Dragon Age: Inquisition)

For Mallinson, multiplayer games that focus on interactions between human players are a touch point for Blood Will Have Blood. “This show has the most in common with the video games where you are aware of the other people playing and their choices affect your choices,” she says. “Games like Journey, for instance, where you can make friends and follow people through.”

ImmerCity isn’t the first theatre company to name games as key influences. Punchdrunk and Coney, amongst other prominent interactive theatre makers, have looked to the ways games tell stories to inform their work. Coney’s recent show REMOTE, for example, is formed by audience members collectively playing a woman, and making binary decisions by raising a card (or not raising a card).

Blood Will Have Blood runs from 27-28 May as part of the Brighton Fringe.

READ NEXT: Does digital technology have a place on the stage?

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