A number of things were sacrificed socially when COVID-19 hit. Bars, partying, barbershops- and of course, live performance. Actors have a hard time social distancing, and putting butts in seats isn't exactly easy with a killer virus on the loose. During a pandemic, theatre is virtually impossible.
But virtually, theatre is possible.
I noticed this new, free app on my Oculus Quest VR Headset after getting a recommendation from someone I follow on Twitter, and boy am I glad I downloaded it. This incredible experience goes beyond "game" and beyond "theatre" too. The app takes the form of a mysterious virtual world, an empty desert that soon unfolds into a theatrical lounge with a ticket booth. There, you can purchase tickets for The Under's first digital, VR immersive experience, The Tempest.
Many will be familiar with the name immediately- The Tempest is well known as William Shakespeare's last play, a story of betrayal, fae, magic and love. However, The Under takes a different approach. Rather than simply relaying the story, you, the audience, become the storytellers. Guided by a live actor, you're instructed into playing certain roles, with small "auditions" being held.
That said, you can't speak. In The Under Presents, there are very minimal ways to interact with the world. You can snap, move around, do some minor magical spells (that create food for some reason) and wave or move your head. Thus, the actor guiding you is the main catalyst for the action, and they also are responsible for moving you from location to location.
The special effects are frankly incredible and give a real since of scale. Prospero, the magical guardian of the island on which the play takes place, takes some truly monstrous and massive forms to interact with the players that lend a lot of credence to the story. Beautiful sets are everywhere, and you can tell much work was done to make the island feel unique and fun.
The story has tons of heart and honestly it's just great to experience theatre of any kind right now. If you've got a VR headset, check it out.