3 out of 5 stars
Frogman, Curious Directive
© David Monteith-Hodge / Photographise

VR thriller from Curious Directive

The rise of virtual reality as a tool in theatre seems as inevitable as robots nicking all our jobs in real life. And this show from Curious Directive offers some hints as to the potential of the medium – even if it’s not all there yet.

Two decades ago, Meera’s troubled friend Ashleigh disappeared, presumed drowned when Meera’s police diver father – the frogman of the title – found her backpack and hat in the Queensland waters. Now the boat Ashley went out on that night has been found – and the authorities want to question Meera and her dad.

The only live human performer in ‘Frogman’ is Tessa Parr as present-day Meera – she does a decent, disgnified job with a small part. Over our headphones a voice questions her about anything else she might know about the night Ashleigh disappeared.

In an awkward conceit, we’re somehow supposed to be a jury and are invited to view virtual reality ‘evidence’ regarding the case, It’s all a bit half-arsed – we never vote on anything, and the VR videos – filmed on underwater dives and in Meera’s childhood bedroom – either don’t have a huge amount of bearing on the case or would clearly never have actually been filmed. Much less awkward, I think, to not have bothered trying to cobble together an in-plot explanation for the VR sections.

But when we don the helmets it is really cool: the underwater sections look genuinely stunning, especially when we swim over the Great Barrier Reef, while the bits looking back to Meera’s bedroom feature some good child actors, are pretty – cradled in dreamy music, and with a beautifully detailed retro set from Camilla Clark – and genuinely technologically interesting as we have to move in our seats and peer around us to fully take in the action.

‘Frogman’ doesn’t entirely ‘work’, but there’s enough magic in the technology to make a dive into it worthwhile.

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