Immerse Productions’ marketing is impressive. The blurb, social media hype, trailer and interviews suggest an exciting, modern and innovative experience that takes a look at political unrest combined alongside what might happen in a catastrophic international emergency scenario. It’s exciting to see immersive theatre happening locally (even during the Fringe the offering is relatively limited) and during the rest of the year it’s practically non existent. Unfortunately this production doesn’t do the genre the best service.
It should be noted that the production is made up of young amateur players and so perfect performances cannot be expected, neither can the gravitas and comparative realism that older players (over thirty) would give to a supposed grave emergency situation. The piece gets off to a good start as we await entry into the well chosen, atmospheric venue. Sirens rage and a car screams up, releasing an agitated young man smartly dressed on a phone. The anticipation builds as we are granted entry at the show’s start time. We enter one by one, via pseudo searches and ID checks, in a titillating start to the piece. But getting everyone in takes twenty minutes, so it’s a long wait either on the outside or inside, with only some announcements from the Department of Emergency to tide us over.
Once the action gets going we find ourselves in a kind of story-based escape game, encouraged to search around the room for clues (presumably to unravel the confusing, illogical narrative). However, as the only light comes from a few of the cast members’ torches and there are around thirty people in the large space, most of us inevitably find ourselves in passive roles, wandering around in the dark, unlike the constant involvement an escape room provides. We need more action from the players, more scenes and drama happening in our midst, to drive a story and get us invested.
The idea here is a very good one, but is let down by a story arc that makes little sense: ushered into a safe location due to imminent nuclear attack, security guards then question the authority of the “people in suits” and turning on a pinhead, tell us we need to find a way out with no real evidence or reasoning. Unanswered questions can be thrilling and while the risk-taking is admirable, Year Zero’s creative process shows naivete.
Leith and its surrounds is packed with interesting spaces, something that other Edinburgh theatre makers would do well to utilise – and Immerse Productions should be commended for doing so. There’s some interesting ideas and areas of promise in Year Zero, but they have a way to go before being paying punter ready.
For more including tickets for Year Zero click here.