By ROCCO THOMPSON
The brainchild of Secret Theatre Artistic Director, Richard Crawford, REDEMPTION ROOM promises a chilling, immersive virtual experience from the (dis)comfort of your own desktop. This show presents six disgraced celebrities seeking redemption who get more than they bargained for when an evil entity is awakened into the proceedings. This one-of-a-kind horror experience will allow audiences to vote, judge, contact the celebrities directly and impact their outcome. With the project going live from six major cities (including Hong Kong, London, Singapore, Mumbai, Sydney, and New York) starting February 27th, Crawford spoke with Rue Morgue ahead of REDEMPTION’s premiere to discuss the creation of the ambitious immersive horror event.
Secret Theatre has quite an impressive resume of productions. Besides the virtual component, what makes REDEMPTION ROOM different than anything you’ve done previously?
We have tried to make it immersive as soon as you buy a ticket, as opposed to when the live productions start. People can contact the characters in the time leading up to the show and many people have already been building relationships with them which is quite interesting. It should make the experience even more wild as you will have spoken to the characters directly. It’s a great moment right now as many people are at home more and it’s something really different in the culture.
Though, of course, COVID-19 made this format necessary, have you always been interested in creating theatre in a virtual space? What are some of the benefits and limitations?
We have been doing live shows for about 10 years, but I have worked on a few films and have always enjoyed the experience. I always thought the idea of a live film could be pretty radical – seeing the action in real-time and being able to comment on it in real-time and interact. Especially in a horror experience. A huge benefit is people can watch the show from anywhere in the world and we are performing at various times as well for the different time zones in the world. That is really cool. Our midnight shows in the US Pacific Coast, midnight shows in India, Japan, and Hong Kong have been selling well. By going live, you are limited (no CGI), but it makes you create a hyper-real experience.
Not all projects you’ve done are horror-centric, but what made you turn to the genre for this one?
I think as it’s going to be live and hyper-real, the horror genre could really play into that. My live productions in Asia are really popular and the horror genre is so revered there (the original Ring and Oldboy are two of my favorite films), so they have been very enthusiastic about the vision. Also, as soon as we decided to do “midnight” shows, I thought, “What [could be] better?”
Is REDEMPTION ROOM the most immersive project you’ve ever created?
It’s hard to say as being live, you are right there in the narrative. In some of my shows, I have had audience members hunting vampires, but here you can connect to the story as soon as you get a ticket.
What has been the biggest challenge working with cast members in so many varied locations?
Time zones! On this project I’m constantly talking to people in the future or in the past which can drive you a little crazy!
If you could use two horror properties to describe the experience of REDEMPTION ROOM, which would they be?
Black Mirror meets Host (2020)…
Do you believe virtual experiences like this one are pushing immersive theatre in a new direction?
I have really enjoyed it, so I really want to do another one already. Not everybody enjoys going to live productions, so I feel we need more content for people to enjoy in their homes, especially with the way the world is currently.
What scares you?
My imaginary friend. He’s awful.
Shows go live on February 27th and run through March 14th, 2021 and can be viewed on any device that supports Zoom. Screening dates and times vary across the US, including a special scary Midnight show (PST) on March 13th.