- “The Curious Voyage” is a three-day immersive theatre production which starts in Barrie, Canada and ends in London, England.
- A ticket for one costs $US1,950, not including flights and meals.
- We spoke to Carly Maga, a theatre critic who experienced the production, to find out what it’s really like.
- Spoiler alerts below.
If you’ve been to your fair share of immersive cinema and theatre productions, you may think you’ve seen it all. But you’d (probably) be wrong.
This year, a Canadian theatre company is upping the stakes by putting on a three-day immersive theatre experience which begins in Barrie, Ontario, Canada, travels across the Atlantic Ocean, and finishes in London, England.
The continent-spanning production is called “The Curious Voyage,” and is taking place in October and November of this year.
Created by Barrie’s Talk Is Free Theatre (TIFT), it will set you back $US1,950 per person (or $US1,450 if you choose to stay in a hostel rather than a hotel) – and the ticket doesn’t include flights and meals.
“You are a pivotal character in the story, you will make key artistic decisions influencing the plot and content of your experience,” said Arkady Spivak, Artistic Producer of TIFT.
Here’s how it works
On day one, you’re out and about exploring Barrie – which is about an hour north of Toronto – before heading to a masquerade ball.
Day two is spent flying to London on a normal commercial flight, which you book yourself.
The journey recommences around noon on day three, when participants are reimmersed in the narrative once again, and then culminates in an immersive musical production of Sweeney Todd.
Two hotel stays are included throughout the three days.
As you engage with the characters and landscape around you, you’re invited to investigate mysteries and uncover secrets about yourself, according to the company.
‘Moments made me question what I thought was real’
Carly Maga, a Canadian theatre critic who experienced the three-day performance herself, told INSIDER what it was really like, despite the fact that “every audience member’s journey is unique.”
“There were about five other audience members with me but I started the journey alone,” Maga said.
She said the experience began when she checked into a hotel in Barrie – it wasn’t long before there was a knock on her door and the “show” commenced with a one-on-one scene in the hotel room.
“You’re not really sure what’s coming next, what is real and what’s part of the play,” Maga said. “I had a bit of adrenaline and wonder and nerves around that.
“You feel that way when you know you’re seeing a production that’s an hour long but the prospect of flying to London the next day and continuing the show there was a totally different scale that I was trying to get myself prepared for but also stay in the moment.”
A common grievance with immersive experiences is that they’re not really believable, and with a production lasting three days, this was an even greater challenge for TIFT.
Periods of downtime were factored in for the “audience.” However, this of course meant they came out of the story.
“You can’t keep going for three whole days, so there were moments where it was easy to break out of it, but there were also other moments that really did throw me for a loop and did make me question what I thought was real a lot,” Maga said.
At one point, for example, somebody who’d been posing as an audience member was revealed to be part of the cast. “That was a moment that really did make it feel quite real, I was very confused for a second,” Maga said.
As real as some moments were, the whole of day two was devoted to travelling. It was an entirely normal flight – according to Maga, the production company tried to make the flight immersive, but weren’t able to arrange it. The actors also don’t travel back and forth, but rather there’s a separate cast in each country.
While flying to another continent may seem like something of a gimmick, Maga said the storyline and theme does carry through from Barrie to London.
“In the story, there is a reason to travel to London,” she explains, but adds that it could have worked without the flight. “The story is really about confronting the good and bad within yourself.
“Reckoning with the two sides of people, and what could potentially drive you to do things that you don’t think you would do.”
She said most people do it for the experience and the sense of camaraderie you feel at the end.
Of course, the cost of the production is a barrier to many (although the three-day tickets are now sold out). However there is the option to just attend the day in London, which will set you back a more reasonable £46.
Maga believes that whether the experience is worth the cost comes down to what you’re looking for in your cultural entertainment.
“It’s certainly not for everyone and I don’t think it’s going to be a mainstream idea,” she said.
“But for a certain particular audience member who is interested in immersive theatere and is looking for the bigger challenge or production, I think there are people who are going to be looking out for that.”