A new performance piece melding live theatre and virtual reality has just opened as part of Army@TheFringe.
Familiar Stranger brings together live acting and virtual reality to tell the story of an Iraq War veteran returning to civilian life.
The 45-minute show is a collaboration between The University of Glasgow Department of Computing Science and Glasgow-based artist and coder collective RealRealReal.
Hosted in the Hepburn House Army Reserve Centre (Venue 210) in East Claremont Street, Edinburgh, it offers an insight into a veteran’s attempts to reintegrate into everyday life.
It opens with a monologue performed by career soldier Sergeant Major Garry Worrall, after which audiences are introduced to the Oculus Go VR headsets that plunge them into a virtual space, and the veteran’s inner life.
It ranges through his home and then into his memories of deployment – an experience that is simultaneously familiar and strange.
Afterwards the audience meet Garry again and have the chance to talk to him about his experiences in and out of the Army – opening up the space between the artists’ ideas of army life and his first hand knowledge.
Dr Julie Williamson, Lecturer in Human Computer Interaction at the university’s School of Computing Science, developed the technical set up and collaborated on the script.
She said:“Virtual reality is often considered a solitary activity, but I’m interested in exploring how we can use virtual spaces to expand shared experiences.
“Working with Dennis Reinmuller and Debbie Moody from RealRealReal and Army@TheFringe has given us a great opportunity to explore how theatre can be melded with VR to create an experience that can’t be delivered any other way.”
Familiar Stranger features the voice of Louise Oliver as The Magazine Soldier, guiding the viewer through the fictional veteran’s memory. The music is created by Sarah J Stanley of HQFU together with RealRealReal.
Army@TheFringe is presented by Army Headquarters Scotland as a way of engaging with wider society through the arts and initiating discussion about soldiering.
The venue, which runs from 10 to 25 August, is staffed by soldiers who run the bar and front of house services, and who mingle with the public before and after shows.
Familiar Stranger if supported by the University of Glasgow’s Dean’ Fund.
It runs until 24 August with performances at 1pm, 3.45pm and 6.45pm daily.