Theatre Review: Plymouth Point // Swamp Motel

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Photo Credit: Twitter / @swampmotel

Meet the progressive new company combining live-streamed theatre and Zoom meetings. Swamp Motel have embraced the current social climate and produced a guilt-free immersive mystery that you can embrace from your living room sofa.

As detectives, you must piece together what has happened to a missing girl named Ivy, sleuthing your way through social media platforms and password-locked webpages. This escape-room-esque adventure involves audience participation from the outset, with an amazing storyline and a number of shocking twists.

Maintaining the personal nature of a video call, whilst also forming believability within a fictional world, Plymouth Point has a unique advantage that theatre otherwise loses. Despite the comfort of watching from your own home, the constant interaction transports you into a world of storytelling, where you are the main character.

Prior to COVID-19, the opportunities for a creation such as this would be limited. In general, we would rather venture to a venue for a performance and tend to be hesitant to pay for an online experience. In one way, the pandemic is pushing creators into unexpected directions, where amazing things can bloom from underdeveloped facets of our entertainment industries.

I clicked ‘join’ to the group meeting along with my siblings and both of their partners – some in person, and some over Zoom call. We usually do online escape rooms together, but collectively we were much more emotionally invested in this. Tacky home-made Youtube videos and PDFs were replaced by believable actors pleading for your help, and subtle clues to save for later. Although exciting for all members of the family, it is important you have one or two tech-savvy people on board. A number of webpages, codewords, phone calls and documents had to be scavenged to unlock numerous levels of the puzzle.

As we delved into Ivy’s world, she began to feel like a lost friend we desperately needed to find. The more we learnt about her character, the more we wanted to discover her whereabouts. The audio clips, photos, videos and phone-calls developed a touchingly emotional investment from participants, leading the dramatic conclusion to be even more chilling. After a highly unpredictable turn of events, the shouting from audience members must be very entertaining for the employees running the experience.

It is no wonder Swamp Motel has spawned from Punchdrunk alumni, as this innovative and imaginative story is not one for the fainthearted. After sceptically watching the trailer full of shocked audience members, the screenshots of myself from after the experience are surprisingly even more dramatic.

After the experience, I was spellbound by the believability of every virtual element. The creators had expertly formed an online presence – so much so that we had mutual Facebook friends with fictional characters. Whilst making us all feel like A* hackers, above anything else the process made me realise how easy it is to be duped online.

Swamp Motel should not only be credited with the amazing work they are doing to support the theatre community throughout socially distanced times, but also the inclusivity they strive to address. Not only have they catered for the current social climate, but also for all disabilities. By altering experiences to suit the needs of audience members, Plymouth Point is progressively projecting what the theatre of the future needs to address: accessibility.  

Initiatives such as this are a lifeline for the performing arts community. As a step in a positive direction, creating, supporting and engaging in accessible and inclusive productions are needed to sustain theatre within 2020. The shift towards virtually socialising was incredibly smooth in this experience, and an amazing use of technology to form a spookily immersive mystery.

Tickets are available here.

Words by Harriet Fisk.


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