Fusion opera company Virtually Opera is set to bring its interactive immersive opera Come Bargain with Uncanny Things to London’s COLAB Tavern in November.
The opera is a supernatural ritual set in an alternate London of weird and sinister creatures making bargains from the shadows. The cast are the bargainers dealing with these taboo things, under the supervision of cautious locals – the audience directing things.
The company invites the audience to solve problems on the night with the help of the bargainers, the performers who improvise around the spontaneous narratives as they arrive. This creates an open-ended adaptive narrative, based on the audience’s choices, from how they react to the uncanny things to how they guide the bargainers. As such every show will be different.
The audience essentially plays the part of a community coming together to perform a ritual of bargaining to bind the Uncanny Things in order to use their power; decisions are made collectively and the narrative builds on those choices made. You will decide who to help, make offerings, create magical invocations and above all navigate this strange, and yet strangely familiar, world of the wyrd.
Audience members can interact as much or as little as they wish. You could choose to take a central role in the ritual, or just sit back and enjoy what the others do. You won’t be asked to sing, unless you especially want to.
Come Bargain With Uncanny Things was created by Virtually Opera’s artistic director and founder Leo Doulton. Music direction is from Erika Gundesen, with designs by Charley Ipsen.
The cast comprises just four singers. The part of the Invoker, Guildmaster McCall, is sung by CN Lester; the Offerer, River, is performed by Michelle Kelly; Sarah Griffin performs the part of the Observer, Carol Schuster; and finally, Will Davies is the Wyrd Gazer, Gabriel Erikson. Zoe Flint is the understudy.
The production runs at COLAB Tavern on selected dates between 15 and 27 November, with performances starting at 7pm. The content of the opera makes it unsuitable for younger viewers. There will be breakout spaces for anyone needing to take a break from the performance. Tickets are on sale from Design My Night. Full price tickets cost £30; a limited number of affordable £10 tickets are available for those for whom cost is a barrier to attending theatre.
Come Bargain With Uncanny Things was first presented as a work in progress at the 2021 Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival. It then had a residency in Aldeburgh as part of a Britten Pears Creative Retreat earlier this year.
Commenting on the Tête à Tête performances, creator and director Doulton said: “My ongoing work in creating truly immersive, interactive opera was ready to go to the next level: giving the audience total freedom within a world of the company’s creation.
“It was fascinating to see what different audiences did. Each audience took a very different approach, choosing to tackle different problems and make different bargains with the uncanny thing.”
Virtually Opera, which was established in 2014, is a fusion opera company, mixing the artform with other types of performance art. Come Bargain With Uncanny Things is a unique production that combines opera music with improvisatory ritual-music traditions from around the world as well as interactive, immersive game-based theatre.
The company said of the production: “It is (artistically) an exploration of how we relate to our community and wider world and (practically) a chance to feel like you’re doing magic, which is really fun.”
Virtually Opera’s interactive immersive opera Come Bargain With Uncanny Things will be staged at London’s COLAB Tavern in November.