Cinema is all about the sensory experience. It is always an interesting strand of hotly contested argument then, when the foibles of 3D (and other techniques) are discussed in passionate discourse between two opposing factions: one side who embrace the advances, pitted against the purists who believe that the employ of 3D and its ilk is an inferiority ne a ‘gimmick’; nothing more than eye candy/window-dressing set to sully, or distract from, the potency of neuron-stretching narrative or even to cover the cracks of a vacuous plot. At their most dismissive, they cry ‘Emperor’s new clothes’ and bang vehemently on the table.
Yet, as the difference between celluloid and digital become ever more impossible to distinguish, and advances to combat light loss on 3D is making considerable headway, the reality is that technology is consigning said ‘purists’ to the past; casting them as bizarre, contrary and anachronistic figures battling pig-headedly through sentimentality for no real purpose other than quaint nostalgia. Move along Granddad and keep up with the times.
This brings us to the news that the (genuinely) immersive fabulous wonder.land experience has been nominated in the New Frontiers strand at the Sundance festival in Utah. Why has it been nominated? Well, who doesn’t want to enter into a surreal universe and be serenaded by a gigantic Cheshire cat to a smoky song entitled ‘fabulous’, arranged by Blur and Gorillaz’s Damon Albarn, with lyrics by Moira Buffini?
This scribe can attest to the wondrous immersive quality of the project. Stemming from National Theatre’s show wonder.land, this extension of the production is assisted by Oculus Rift technology, where the viewer is sent down the Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole where you can delve in and around the expansive 360 degree landscape whilst said aforementioned cat sings to you.
This is ground-breaking stuff and something that can genuinely be labelled as ‘the first of its kind’. Taking credit for this fantastical experience is the boldly imaginative British company 59Productions, whose previous credits include the record-breaking David Bowie Is… exhibition and the video design of the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Co-Creative Director of 59 Productions, Lysander Ashton, says: “We are thrilled to be bringing fabulous wonder.land to Sundance Film Festival, and to share it with American audiences at such a world-renowned event. It is particularly exciting to explore the new frontier between theatre, film and virtual reality and to find new ways of using technology to bring stories to life.”
The theatrical show wonder.land is running at the National Theatre until April. The Sundance Festival takes place in Utah from 21-31st January.