The world of Virtual Reality isn’t one I’ve spent a lot of time in, which is why the Australian premiere of Whist at the Sydney Festival was so intriguing.

One of the floors in a blank room at Carriageworks has been littered with abstract objects – a marbled cube, cracks in the concrete, a glass wall around a pole – and these serve as our set and our prompts. A swift introduction is babbled through by a member of staff, and the VR headsets are given out.

Brought to Sydney by UK-based physical theatre company AΦE this show is based on Freud’s real-life case studies, exploring the inner workings of the subconscious mind. Via the headsets, we’re taken on a journey as we follow (at least) three questionable characters into their world.

The objects around the room serve as prompts for each individual film. We all start at the same object and take different journeys, depending on the choices we make when we’re watching the film.

The cool part? Not only do your choices dictate which films you watch and where you end up, but when your journey has come to a close you’ll receive a unique access code to unlock the analysis behind your choices, Freud-style.

Performance-wise, there isn’t much that’s tangible to hold onto. I had difficulty focusing my headset, so everything appeared slightly blurry, and it took a while to get used to the dizzy feeling that VR provides. There’s a lot of running around (the performers, not you) and a lot of grotesque scenes you must play witness too – at least, that was my experience. There isn’t anything representing a through-line, or any sort of story arc.

I would have liked a more solid analysis, too. A more comprehensive breakdown of why my choices lead me where they did.

Yours will be a standalone experience. But a truly unique one, should you pluck up the courage and buy a ticket.

Alana Kaye – Theatre Now


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