In the Shadow it Waits

Theatre
Recommended
In the Shadows it waits film still, four faces on a Zoom call
Photograph: In the Shadows it Waits

Time Out says

A live filmed horror performance draws out the terror of isolation

You've been in isolation for more than a year. You're on your millionth Zoom meeting, and you are definitely over it. Suddenly you see an ominous shadow behind your coworker, and they drop off the call. Where have they gone? Was it just normal bad connections or something more sinister? What was that shadow? Surely nothing could have got into their apartment? Or could it?

That's the setup for In the Shadow It Waits, a live film production that has been showing around the world and is going to be available for Australians to watch on All Saints' Day (that's November 1, the day after Halloween). Almost all of the show is live performance, filmed over Zoom and edited and mixed in real time. Camera glitches, wonky audio and dropped calls are all part of the horror. During the performance I saw, one of the actors' internet dropped out for a short time, and the others had to cover (this was so seamless that I didn't realise the dropped call wasn't part of the show until the Q and A afterwards). 

Bored coworkers play and share an online horror game, in the vein of the internet phenomenon of Momo or early chain letters that promised untold misfortunes upon you if you didn't share them with your friends. But when elements of the game cross over into real life, the lines between online life and real life (as viewed on a Zoom call, and of course on the audience's own screens) are blurred, then broken. The format is both intimate and alienating, mundane and truly horrifying. 

The anxiety we all feel in isolation heightens the effectiveness of the format. Turning the inherent instability and uncanniness of virtual meetings into a force to ratchet up tension is an extremely inventive device. Staring at yourself and others on screens all day, you can't help but search the background for ominous elements. And when those elements start appearing in the show, it just confirms all of your worst fears. 

There's a truism in film that horror reflects back society's worst fears, with fear of nuclear-influenced mutation birthing Godzilla in the 1950s, Night of the Living Dead as a horrifying allegory for racism in the 1960s, and fears of germ warfare in the wake of 9/11 influencing films such as 28 Days Later. In an extremely literal sense, In the Shadow It Waits is the culmination of our isolation fears as we watch our lives play out on our computer screens. 

Tickets are $10 for individuals, $20 per household, $35 per watch party of up to five households and $50 for a watch party of up to ten different screens. 

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