Words by Sarah Lapinsky.
In Out Late, VOXED takes an innovative approach to presenting dance work online by creating an online, choose-your-own-adventure crime drama experience.
With the ability to decide how the story unfolds, I felt as if I were a police investigator assigned to piece together the murder of Vinnie, a former army chef turned private investigator that greets us as the story begins in his afterlife. As he adjusts to his new reality of being dead, he directs his questions of his sad demise to us through the camera while a couple pulse in the background. Cuts to other scenes appear throughout his monologue; perhaps these are previews of what is to come or clues to what really happened. Either way, it is clear that time is fluid, reality is subjective and the story will be complicated…
First question: Do we begin by meeting the suspects or discovering how the victim got involved with them?
I chose to meet the suspects, Fiona and Sebastian, and joined them on their rather tense date night– literally tense, as they are joined together by a rope in tension while they circle each other and decide on their orders. The tension between them grows as they repeat, restart and speed up their conversations as time slips and their relationship deteriorates. By the time scene is finished, it is clear that there are secrets between them. Why is Vinnie sitting in the corner watching them?
Where next: Meet them earlier in the relationship or skip to them pursuing therapy?
Whichever you choose, you will see the story unfold of their mistrusting relationship and difficult decisions. Various routes organize the information differently offering distinct burns depending on the choices you make. The responsibility to the story and the truth is palpable. Perhaps, you focus on one of the suspects or on the victim himself; this experience only amplifies the excitement of what remains secret and when it might come to light. You can truly feel the effect of learning something new as the characters do and relate to them, though we do not have nearly as much at stake.
When will you have all of the facts?
My questions and my curiosity drive my choices and keep me engaged to make discoveries and understand the characters’ point of views. Poor Fiona, confused Sebastian and complex Vinnie weave their webs through the story.
Who do you choose to follow? Whose story is most compelling to you?
The StoryFormer software proves easy to use and wonderfully accessible in offering captions and the ability to pause if you want more time to make your decision or have to answer the door for your UberEats delivery. I especially appreciated that it made sure I had seen everything before the end, as the FOMO would have bothered me endlessly. Overall, the piece does not flow like a live performance, but it shouldn’t; the snapshots and the conflicting stories emphasize the crime solving storyline.
Filming the piece onstage preserves the feeling of a live performance while also enabling the audience to see the performers and the movement more closely than one would from a seat in the theatre. Close ups of the performers force me into their space and helps me appreciate details I may have missed otherwise, while the play between foreground and background keeps me questioning what I am seeing.
So, when you finally reach the end and have seen everything, do you know what happened or who did it? Well, of course it doesn’t matter really. The deed is done and whatever conclusions you come to may still not be based on the full story. The real question of: What drives someone to murder? That’s up to you to solve.
The work premiered March 17th and will be available via BBC Taster as part of BBC Arts and One Dance UK collaboration for Dance Passion 2022.
Choreographer and Director: Wayne Parsons
Writer: Ankur Bahl
Designer: Rosa Maggiora
Lighting Designer: Guy Hoare
Composer and Sound Designer: Angus MacRae
Dramaturg: Pooja Ghai
Theatrical Producer: Lise Smith
Film Producer: Wayne Parsons
Production Manager: Rachel Shipp
Assistant Director/Sound Mixer: Omari (Motion) Carter
Camera Operator/Editor: James Williams
Relighter: Joe Hornsby
Sound Operator: Andre Birck
Performers: Folu Odimay, Caldonia Walton, Stuart Waters
Out Late is a Dance Passion project commissioned by BBC Arts and Once Dance UK. Supported by Arts Council England. Header image: Lidia Crisafulli.