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'The Under Presents' Redefines Immersive Theater in Live VR Retelling of 'The Tempest' – Road to VR

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The Under Presents is hosting a limited time immersive theater show to Oculus Quest and Rift-owning audiences soon that takes William Shakespeare’s play The Tempest and puts you into the story like never before.

The Under Presents is a different kind of VR experience altogether. In the base version of the game you explore the world by recursively spawning and sort of being your own AI throughout the narrative. Live actors also pop in every so often to puppeteer characters though, leaving you unsure of where the game fits on the real-to-virtual continuum. You truly have to experience it to understand it, but a much more lengthy explanation may help you grok where this unique flight-of-fancy is coming from.

Now, developers Tender Claws have announced a new interactive experience starting on July 9th that explores a different set of social gameplay elements, all the while set to the backdrop of a retelling of The Tempest, Shakespeare’s 17th century tale of a Duke Prospero of Milan and his banishment by King Alonso of Naples. It’s a story of magic, love, redemption, loss, retrieval, exile and reunion—normally told on-stage and in full iambic pentameter.

The Under Presents: Tempest is however a group activity of sorts. You pay $15 for your ticket, show up at the the cinema lobby at your appointed time, and begin the show with an assortment of between six to eight participants.

Walking around the lobby and waiting for the show to start, one person showed me how to conjure a magical onion by pulling the mask from my face, and snapping my fingers in succession. Another showed me how to see an alternate universe by picking up a glass jug and looking through it. These were mostly toys for the sake of fun distraction, but the cinema lobby, which was flooded with errant sand dunes, also set the tone of the evening . We would all need to express ourselves physically to communicate since we were muted.

Once the show begins, you’re transported to a campfire where you meet a live actor, who in the show’s meta-narrative was due to play Prospero in a proper stage show. Of course, the ever-so-topical lockdown put an end to the live performance, and you end up joining their imagination as a spirit of what things could have been.

In the show, you’re run through interesting, dreamlike set pieces, and made to act out parts in the story, all of which are voiced-over by your guide.

To make things even more immersive, costume accessories are summoned to your expressionless avatars. I played Prospero’s daughter, Miranda, who falls in love with Ferdinand (17th century spoiler alert), the son of King Alonso. I got married in VR, but don’t tell my wife that.

All of it reminded me of a high school drama class exercise, of course setting aside the fact that we were all spirits doing magic, and teleporting throughout discrete parts of the tale, lovingly rendered in a smart, low-poly art style.

All the while our guide would play bigger parts and lead us through the action, and control the environments without a hitch. Our guide, Kelley Pierre, was affable and kept everyone involved as she slipped in and out of characters with apparent ease.

And you may be asking: is it worth the entry price? Each performance lasts about 40 minutes, and is priced at $15. I think if you’re looking for something novel, professionally produced, and are the sort of person who likes the idea of going on walking tours, or immersive whodunits, you’ll really enjoy The Under Presents: Tempest.

The Steam version of the game isn’t supporting The Tempest, as it’s exclusive to the Oculus platform, available only on Oculus Quest and Oculus Rift.

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