I recently took the opportunity to participate in Jabba, Jabba, Jabba, the latest show offered by New Synthetic Theatre, a UK-based group lead by Alan Hudson, intending to “Exploit, explore and demonstrate the features offered by environments such as Second Life in order to create a new performance medium and to show that this can be financially viable,” with the aim of being recognised as, “a new form of commercial media, available to the entertainment industry and to education, enabling immersive , highly engaging experiences to be created.”
Think of it, perhaps, as a pop video, play or opera, in which you are both audience and cast.
The group’s first show, Ninety-Nine Percent opened in 2012. It is based on the world-wide Occupy movement and stands as the first demonstration of the application of a time-based Second Life ticketed theatrical show of this type. The show is still available at the NST’s main theatre complex in Second Life. It lasts for around 7 minutes.
Jabba, Jabba, Jabba is the second show from the NST, and is currently being featured in the SL Destination Guide as well as on the official viewer’s MOTD. It is described as, “A totally immersive experience unlike anything else in Second Life. You take part in the action, you fish for the moon, discover Xanadu or slay the manxome Jabberwocky.”
The show is based on three poems: The Wise Men of Gotham by Thomas Love Peacock, Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s marvellous Kubla Khan, and Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky. The aim is to entertain audiences who already love the poems, by making them a part of the story told in each of them. As such, the show can be enjoyed either individually, or as a part of a group.
NST shows are somewhat unique in that they are time-based: you purchase a ticket (L$75 from the ticket office on the ground) for a given performance period (in the case of Jabba, Jabba, Jabba, shows are run every 15 minutes from the top of the hour), and the ticket then acts as a means of both delivering you to the theatre in time for the start of the performance and as the object used to animate your avatar and make you a part of the various scenes being acted-out.
On arrival at the theatre area, there are additional information boards and an audio track which provides you with further information – you’ll obviously need sound enabled on your viewer and Allow the media stream if you are using a viewer equipped with the Media Filter (and have it enabled), but you’ll need the stream on anyway in order to hear the poems as they are recited. Any AO you have should also be turned off to prevent it interfering with the show’s own animations.
This is an immersive, rather than interactive show, so once in the theatre, there is little for you to do other than to focus your camera on yourself and then wait for the show to start – you may need to do some additional adjustment to the camera using the camera floater, but you’ll have no need to control your avatar unless you happen to be facing the wrong way at any point, in which case use the cursor keys to rotate your avatar. Don’t forget to use ESC if you find your camera ends up on the wrong side of things if you fo move it around.
The sets for the poems comprise a mix of physical builds (notably The Wise Men of Gotham), particle effects, projections and phantom objects. The poems are narrated by Catherine Barrett, accompanied by suitable soundtracks and offer an interesting interpretation of the poems which fits will with the acts which go with them. These see your avatar fish for the Moon, stand in awe at the sight of Xanadu and then hunt down the Jabberwocky.
If I’m honest, the show left me with mixed feelings. Both Jabberwocky and Kubla Khan are poems I much enjoy, and it was interesting to be made a part of each of them; however, in some respects I felt the show was perhaps a little dry and left me a little too detached from things. Truth be told, I found myself listening more to Catherine Barrett’s reading of the pieces than paying attention to what was going on in-world, particularly with these two pieces. Being unfamiliar with The Wise Men of Gotham I rather conversely found myself more focused on what was going on in the boat than on paying attention to the poem itself.
Nevertheless, this is an interesting concept, and I have a feeling that when I can, I’ll be popping into Ninety Nine Percent.