Oracular Theatre was an immersive installation set in the ‘Cool Zone’ of 2020. A series of variable stages situated in a disused high street bank and a role play psychodrama of sorts. Minimal props, projections, stories and sound reflected and refracted through the maze-like building amongst office debris, fading fluorescent lights and ceiling mould.
It exists as a set of physical props, moving image works and a role play method ‘low-fi sci-fi’ which has 8 storylines and atmospheres, 16 characters, a series of video call backdrops and a virtual workshop process for players/participants without any experience of either improv or role play.
“We do not realize the power we have to become artists and actors in our own right, and we allow others to define our worlds for us. When properly utilised, games have the potential to shock an audience out of this mindset." Michaela Joffe, Video Games of the Oppressed
Oracular Theatre is possibly best likened to a puzzle game i.e. a set of parameters and an invitation to suspend a certain amount of reality to play. Informed by Live Action Role Play, improvisation and absurdist theatre it can both invite an audience or player into physical or virtual space provoking the social imaginary through vernacular co-storytelling - inviting divergent, embodied takes in response to the material - with sometimes uncanny, sometimes meta, sometimes poignant connections to the present.
“Side trips and reversals are precisely what minds stuck in forward gear most need” - Ursula K. Le Guin, The Wanderer
The ‘oracular’ refers to something obscure, prophetic or prognostic, cryptic or puzzling
a kind of anticipatory vision that may hold warning, insight or conjecture. This work developed in the wake of the surreal, tumultuous and tragic now tangles visual phenomena, atmospheric clues and elements of narrative from everyday life with others which are far more speculative but possibly located in our not too distant futures.
The 2m rule, bunkers for the super rich, hotels repurposed as shelters, essential work/ers, 50% unemployment, Amazon warehouses designed to ‘disappear’ into the landscape or drones that can tell what you're watching on Netflix, Menwith Hill’s polygons gathering secret intelligence from the sky or warnings in theme parks to ‘scream inside your hearts’ to avoid the spread of germs… the list is constantly growing and evolving...
Oracular Theatre is both a fictional and real occupation of the present, with others.
An embodied mode of storytelling
that embraces happenstance and utilises abstracted forms relative to the complex systems that define political reality.
Play as a method of critique.
We are currently exploring its potential to be hosted in open source, mixed reality software and are producing an exhibition walkthrough film that will have closed captions by Bella Milroy.
With thanks to: Craven Arts (Skipton), Arts Council England and Craven Council. Fresh Perspective (workshop hosts) and Low-Fi Sci-Fi players. Samra Mayanja (voice acting) and Andrew Walker (3D CGI). Images by: Jules Lister