Friday, May 18, 2012

Experience Kansas City

Who is 'The Monster'? (Source: Anywhere Theatre Festival)
An interactive piece, This is Kansas City is a charming and intriguing scratch work which employs the use of mobile technology and imagination to create an interactive installation. This is Kansas City is a promenade work in which participants navigate around Southbank, directed by remote messages received through the use of a mobile phone, to collect information on the enigmatic criminal referred to as 'The Monster'. At designated locations, participants are given specific instructions while details of 'The Monster' emerge, so they can ultimately pass judgement on whether they think 'The Monster' is really as evil as it's made out to be.

The concept is exclusive, intimate, and secretive. It's genuine fun to be surrounded by the buzz of the city while simultaneously being involved in a secretive rendezvous with both a vigilante and being monitored by the-powers-that-be. It's also intriguing to blindly fall down the rabbit hole - being told to comply to actions was intriguing and when you being to convince yourself that you are being watched by both parties it builds a delicate amount of pressure and tension which is quite compelling. Many details are omitted from the information given from each sides, allowing the imagination to fill the gaps and draw its own conclusions - it's fun to take sides at the end. The best time of the day to experience it is when the sun is setting - walking around South Bank at twilight was a great coincidence, since the overcast was actually charming. 

Technology foiled the flow a few times. The reception of the phone is shaky regardless, but the voice of 'The Authorities' was also pretty difficult to hear - it's a computer generated voice which speaks the lines, but they're quite jarring since the phrasing is unnatural and unpredictable. I felt pretty stupid when I received a set of instructions once, and I couldn't hear them properly so I said 'Pardon?'. Of course no one was on the line and I was stranded. Because of this, a few calls had to be made to the Kansas City Helpline, which involved a remarkably efficient woman emerging to fiddle with your phone to make sure the right messages came through. Due to me having issues, the person who started the experience after me overtook me, and subsequently the person after them caught up with me. I tried my best, but despite trying to look away at every turn I noticed them both constantly (it was actually really irritating) and the immersion from the intimacy and exclusively died instantly. I get the feeling that this could be rectified by sending people out at 5-10 minute intervals, but I guess this would murder the practicality of the whole set up. 

This piece is still a work in progress, and although I've lamented how the little things detracted from the immersion, the pros far out weigh the cons. There is a magic to the piece, and overall the experience is very enjoyable. It's a novel and memorable little experience that has so much potential, it's just at the moment it's susceptible to little kinks. While they can be a little annoying, it's worth sticking with the piece to experience the intrigue - I hope the work gets elaborated on and is able to take us to more places!

Tickets for 'This is Kansas City' are $12 (plus a $1.95 booking fee), and is showing at Anywhere Theatre Festival until May 19th. Duration of approximately 35 minutes. Book by visiting Anywhere Theatre Festival's website.

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