RawTransport, Oxford Playhouse W Lucy Room, Wed 19th June
Attendees are divided by smiling copy-and-paste stewardesses into first class and economy class seats. As the first class passengers sign their waivers and don various protective layers, my initial disappointment at my economy class ticket start to crumple; could mine be the better seat? The RawTransport™ first-class passengers, swaddled and sealed in their Oculus Rift headsets and closed-back headphones, sway and twitch through an experience that is less dream holiday and more the holiday snaps you’d discard, because they weren’t really showing anything of interest.
But inside the headsets, the bewitching 360° glamour of surround image takes hold, and has the first class passengers’ heads twisting and turning like owls, hands twitching at the sweetly orchestrated and pixel-perfect virtual and actual stimuli. As the plot begins to suck at the edges of the happy holiday, and the fixed smiles on the stewardesses start to crack and run, I wonder; is this weirder for us, or them? It’s strongly implied that the economy class seats are safer; but when all the passengers talked it through after the experience, the VR travellers said they’d felt safe and intrigued, even on the strangest shores of their discombobulating VR holiday.
At twenty minutes running time the show is brief, but intense – I left wishing I had been able to try the show in both roles, spectator and traveller, to get the full experience of RawTransport™, a highly experimental, distinctly novel, top-of-the-line virtual travel company that’s definitely still in beta, may contain some glitches, and should be approached with caution – especially by those inclined to get lost in the experience.