Rimini Protokoll’s Best Before Dress Rehearsal and Game Test
December 19, 2009
By PuSh Festival Operations Manager Lindsay McMahon
One of the benefits of working for the PuSh Festival and being in the office year round, is hearing the talk of all the exciting shows programmed in the upcoming festivals. Although I have access to recorded copies of most of these shows and could watch them prior to the festival, I have my own personal rule not to watch them in advance. Rather I thoroughly enjoy experiencing all the shows for the first time, live, during the festival.
I broke that rule recently by attending a dress rehearsal and game test for Rimini Protokoll’s Best Before, a show currently in development, to be premiered at the 2010 Festival. Despite everything I had read and heard of it–in our program guide, on our website, in grant applications, verbally communicated in the office–I just couldn’t wrap my head around what to expect from this piece. Previously when I had tried to explain it to friends I thought should go see it, my description sounded something like this: “It’s a play, but with an video game component. Each audience member has a joystick and they answer questions…but there are also real life experts talking about stuff…”
Needless to say, my description was usually met with confusion. So when I got the opportunity to head down to the Best Before dress rehearsal and game test last Friday night, I took it. If I was going to recommend this show to people, I had to gain a better concept of what the audience was actually going to experience. Now I can definitely say that I will be increasing the amount of people that I recommend this show to. You have to go see it…trust me!
It is a play in the sense that there are people on stage acting, but in this show it’s a bit different. These are not professional actors, but real people recounting stories of their own lives–“experts in daily life” as Rimini Protokoll calls them. Their stories revolve around the key decisions they have made in their life, and how those decisions shaped the rest of their lives.
Behind the actors is a video screen hanging on the wall, on the video screen each audience member’s joystick controls an individual character or avatar (which resembles a jelly tot candy with a face.). Individually you can move your jelly tot around the screen, jump, push other people around, and fall from the sky. This alternate reality that each audience member becomes a part of, is named BestLand.
Throughout the show, everyone is taken through the life cycle of the imaginary character they are assigned. The stories of our “experts in daily life” are interrupted and augmented by questions that are posed to the audience. Each question requires audience members to make a personal decision by pressing the appropriate controls on their joysticks, and these decisions affect the life of our particular character. As it happens in real life, all of our decisions, individual and collective, have various positive and negative consequences in BestLand. Characters grow in size, get older, some have babies, some purchase various material possessions, some even acquired firearms. Decisions are also made as a group or society, with audience members voting and majority ruling, collectively shaping the social fabric of BestLand.
One of the main purposes of this volunteer event was to test the audience participation portion of the show. Though there were a few glitches here and there with certain functions were not working yet, it was truly a great experience. I can’t wait to go back and experience this show once in it’s final form during the 2010 Festival. A word of advice, if you plan to go see Best Before with your PuSh Pass, book your seat now because it’s filling up and space is limited. You don’t want to miss this one.
Best Before is part of the 2010 PuSh International Performing Arts Festival and is presented with Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad and The Cultch. January 29- February 6, 2010 at 7pm (weekend matinees 4pm), The Cultch. Click here for full details.