A House Repeated is a fascinating new show coming to our studio next month. Its drawn praise for its unique mix of storytelling and interactive theatre. We spoke to its creator, Seth Kriebel, about how the show works.
A House Repeated seems to be a bit unusual for a theatre show. How do you describe it to new audiences?
Essentially, it’s storytelling, but storytelling where the audience is in control. It’s not improv… I’ve written a world – a building – for the audience to explore and they decide what they want to do. It’s very much influenced by computer games and it’s similar to immersive theatre, but it’s completely low-tech and the audience explores without leaving their seats. So perhaps interactive storytelling is the best description.
‘Interactive’ can be a scary word! How do you deal with audiences who might be put off by that part of the show?
I think people realise very quickly that the whole point is to have fun, and their curiosity gets the better of them. No one is put on the spot or made to feel uncomfortable… quite the opposite! The audience works together and they usually bond quite quickly, helping each other to figure out what to do and where to go. One of the best bits for me, as a performer, is listening to the audience talk with each other about what’s happening and what they want to do next.
How does it work?
It’s very easy. I describe a place, so I might say something like “You’re in a room. There is a torch on a table, there is a staircase leading up and there is a door to the north.” …but usually more detailed than that! Then I ask what they would like to do. If they go up the stairs, I describe the room they enter. If they go through the door, I describe the place on the other side. If they pick up the torch, maybe it will come in handy later…
It sounds a bit like those choose-your-path books you read when you’re a kid.
It’s definitely inspired by that sort of thing, but I promise there are no goblins or dwarves! I used to read those books and play games in the very early days of computers and I never forgot the feeling of exploring an imaginary world. There was such excitement in the possibility that anything might be behind the next door.
So it’s more like a game?
Very much like a game, in that it’s meant to be fun. And because it really only works if you have someone to play with, someone to explore with. That’s why I made it an interactive show, so the audience might have that same feeling of exploration and excitement. And, because everything takes place in the audience’s imagination, it can be very absorbing. It’s like reading a book versus going to the cinema. In the cinema, you see the director’s vision on the screen in front of you. In a book, you collaborate with the author to bring the world to life, in your imagination… so it can feel very real. In the show, the audience and I work together to create a world to explore. We work together to find out what’s behind that next door.
A House Repeated: The Marlowe Studio, Friday 17 February. Book here.