Enter The SWARM: An interview with Riptide Theatre Company

In the depths of Leeds, there is a studio space that’s not what it seems. Knocking on a blue door and saying a secret password, the Gryphon Arts Editors were immediately immersed in the SWARM. This latest piece of immersive theatre takes the form of a club night which unravels under your control. Earlier this month, I caught up with Alex, director of SWARM to discover more about this constantly developing art form.

Q. Can you tell us a bit about Riptide and your upcoming project?

Riptide are an immersive theatre company based in Leeds. We take over unusual spaces to create our theatre and put our audiences at the very centre of the action. We give over control to our audiences – they are free to choose where they go and what they see within our pieces.

SWARM is the largest and most ambitious performance yet from Riptide.

SWARM is an immersive clubbing experience set in a hedonistic nightclub. Imagine going out and half the people in the nightclub are actors in an unfolding narrative. This is SWARM.

The evening balances precariously between a piece of immersive theatre and a club night, blurring the lines between what is real and what has been engineered by the young artistic minds that make up the company.

Our audience have control over many things in the club, their actions effect where the night goes, everything from the music in the speakers and the lights on the dance floor to the prices of the drinks on sale. The experience combines stunning epic spectacle and intimate encounters, ensuring an evening that will stay with you long after the morning-after.

Every Riptide performance is different every time and for every audience member. You may come on the same day with friends and each could receive a totally different experience. SWARM centres around you, you are the star in your own film, you are the catalyst.

Q. Immersive theatre is a very unique form and is starting to make a name of itself, what inspired you to adopt this form?

I think immersive theatre has grown more popular because theatre audiences are now starting to demand a new type of experience. With the increased complexities in technologies (VR) and video gaming audiences are now wanting to feel part of the world they are exploring. This is what Riptide offers for audiences, a real invitation to touch and explore the world of the performance.

For me personally, I constantly felt frustrated by the confines of the theatre building – so through my training as a director I made a conscious decision to explore other possibilities.

Q. Why should we come see SWARM, particularly those who may not be aware of immersive theatre?

SWARM not only gives you a great night out, it gives you chance to see theatre, art, dance and music in the same night. SWARM is a great thing to do in a group of friends, there are so many variables and possibilities in the night it is very likely that you will have a totally different experience to your friends. (Also because of the nature of the performance – it is impossible to see all the scenes in one night.)

Q.We’re told that SWARM merges both theatre and nightlife culture. Why did you choose Leeds nightlife over the other vibrant cities in England?

We believe there is a real gap and need for this style of performance in Leeds. It is a vibrant city with an interesting live music and art scene. It is a great city if you want to go and see Opera or the Ballet. But if you are a student say, and just want a really great night out with a difference or some affordable theatre there isn’t much.

Q.What’s next for Riptide?

Riptide will be exploring the possibilities of merging gaming and immersive performance within a city background. (This will build on our last performance ‘You Are Here’).

We also have another large scale immersive piece that will be hitting Leeds in early 2017.

SWARM will be performed this week from 11th – 14th May and tickets are available online at http://www.theriptide.co.uk/tickets/swarm.

Mark McDougall

Image courtesy of Riptide

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