Immersive Hitchcock-style thriller raises money for Hackney Giving

PUBLISHED: 17:54 04 June 2020 | UPDATED: 09:09 05 June 2020

Clem Garrity and Ollie Jones co-founders of Swamp Motel who have created an online experience Plymouth Point

Clem Garrity and Ollie Jones co-founders of Swamp Motel who have created an online experience Plymouth Point

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Plymouth Point by immersive theatre specialists Swamp Motel sees Zoom players following online clues scattered across the internet to find a missing woman

Clem Garrity and Ollie Jones co-founders of Swamp Motel who have created an online experience Plymouth PointClem Garrity and Ollie Jones co-founders of Swamp Motel who have created an online experience Plymouth Point

Like all other live entertainment, immersive theatre came to a shuddering halt in March.

With their pending projects cancelled - and no clue when they would resume - immersive theatre specialists Swamp Motel got busy creating an online thriller that isolated friends can play together via Zoom.

The Hitchcockian Plymouth Point invites them to follow clues, trawling real and fake websites and social media accounts, to discover why one of the residents has vanished.

Proceeds from the £20 game fee are donated to Hackney Giving where co-founders Clem Garrity and Ollie Jones both live.

The duo met on Warwick University’s drama course before founding comedy theatre company Kill The Beast and have worked together ever since.

“When we first came to London we had to make our own stuff because we weren’t getting hired, and between waiting tables and selling popcorn we became obsessed with creating immersive theatre experiences and doing site specific work in found spaces,” says Clem.

They ended up working with immersive veterans Punchdrunk, who spearheaded the trend for creating fantastic worlds in disused spaces where audiences became part of the scene.

Ollie explains: “We are both big fans of video games and immersive theatre is the closest thing you can get to it in the real world, with the audience having agency in the performance.

“What we love is the challenge of it, the opportunity to build something not just in front of you but around you.

Clem adds: “It started half out of necessity and half excitement, wanting to give people the most thrilling experience for their money.”

They accept that some immersive theatre is style over substance, selling tickets to people who “are just there to take a picture and tell their friends”.

But like Punchdrunk, their pieces are rooted in compelling stories.

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“We have always been obsessed with narrative, having a beginning, middle and an end so people can explore it on a deeper level,” says Clem. “For us it’s about the audience journey and the detail.”

Plymouth Point is their first purely digital project and keeps players on their toes cracking codes and finding clues that range from the corporate world to the occult. It’s an absorbing hour - which starts with a video message and involves the Swamp Motel team dropping extra clues if needed.

“We didn’t sit around in lockdown - we would have gone mad if we hadn’t had a project,” says Clem.

“We had an idea for a Hitckcockian narrative as a live experience and started thinking whether that could be explored online to give an audience the agency to become a sleuth armed with just a laptop.”

Apart from filming two performers 200 miles apart and making them seem as though they are in the same room, the aesthetic of Plymouth Point is “quite homemade”.

“We are not techie people and we embraced those limitations,” says Clem.

“All of us know how to use the internet and we are using the tools that exist already; email addresses, social media. You can hide a clue in a real website like Google streetview, or put real world history and stories together with fictional websites. It’s hard to tell which are built by us and which are already there.

Ollie adds: “We never want audiences to see the edges of the worlds we build - to know that through that fire escape is normality - It turns out the internet is the perfect place for that.”

The initial run has been a such a success there’s an eight week extension, raising money for Hackney Giving which is supporting community and volunteer organisations caring for local residents.

“Everything has fallen into crisis and we were trying to find a way to help. We both live in Hackney and are really pleased to give something for a charitable cause and give people entertainment.”

They both see an opportunity with Plymouth Point. It’s not lockdown dependent and can be played on by either a team of distant friends or people in the same room.

“It’s made us realise the enormous amount of other ways to tell stories and excite audiences rather than just building a physical experience and inviting them along.

“We are already thinking about a second chapter..”

Plymouth Point is now running until 2nd August. For more information and to book your tickets, please see www.plymouthpoint.co.uk


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