Boho Interactive has been creating interactive theatre since 2006, but the company’s new show brings a whole new element into the picture. Word Play is a ‘live cinema’ experience, which means that the show is performed live in one location and streamed via high-speed video broadband to the audience, in a totally different location.

This is not just an exercise in videoconferencing, however. Rather than a static shot of three performers in a room performing to a fixed camera, the show is more like a movie which is being performed, filmed, edited and screened in realtime. The actors will switch between performing and filming, and the vision will switch between a huge array of cameras as the performance moves through a series of disused CSIRO laboratories.

Add to that the fact that the audience will be interacting live with the performers via mobile phone, asking questions, making decisions and in some instances directly controlling the performers in live video-game sequences, and the result is a genuine hybrid of film, theatre and video gaming.

A ‘live cinema’ work demands a very different approach to making a work of theatre, and so Boho is excited to welcome filmmaker Marisa Martin on board as Word Play director. An experienced independent filmmaker and director, Marisa is the founder and director of the Lights! Canberra! Action! film festival and the head of EoR Media.

I asked Marisa a few questions about her previous work, and about the challenges of creating a live interactive film experience.

David: Word Play is the story of a disease that infects language and ideas, and the consequences of a widespread outbreak. I believe you’ve touched on similar themes in some of your previous work?

Marisa: That’s right – One If By Will was a short film I made in 2006 set in a post-apocalyptic society where people were afraid to communicate with one another. It asked the question ‘What happens when people stop talking?’ Within that world it was the story of a couple, and how quickly relationships erode, dissolve and disintegrate when communication breaks down.

David: What are the biggest differences in creating a work on screen versus live on a stage?

Marisa: One difference is that in theatre there’s a much stronger focus on actors, whereas in film I find the focus is much more on the production team. In theatre it comes down to the actors on stage to make it work – they can’t just say ‘can we do that again?’ In film there’s a greater focus on the camera and the design. With Word Play, both of those elements are critical and pretty inseparable.

One thing that film can do that theatre can’t is to invite the audience to focus on particular things, because we can use the camera to direct what the audience sees. In the theatre it’s always a wide shot. With Word Play I’m going to mix up the vision – we’ll use wide shots, mid-shots, close-ups, point-of-view shots.

It also means that we’ll be able to play on nuance much more – when the performer’s face is as big as the screen, you can do more with less.

David: How will the performers respond to the questions, decisions and instructions made by the audience?

Marisa: A lot of that will be filtered through me so that’s something different to film and TV again because I will be in their ear. I can tell them to tone it down, to move their head because the camera’s not in the right spot. It’s going to be a different challenge for them. And the second half of the play is going to be nuts – the show becomes a survival horror game.

For me it will be like live TV. For them it will be like a mixture of theatre and film-making. For the audience it will be the most unusual experience ever. It will be the unique.

Where: CSIRO Discovery Centre, Clunies Ross street, Acton

When: 7:30pm Wednesday – Saturday 15-18 May, 22-25 May, 29 May-1 June

Tickets: $20 – buy tickets here.

Top image by Rohan Thomson.

This is a Centenary of Canberra project, proudly supported by the ACT Government & CSIRO.


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