There’s a classic bit of folklore that talks about wandering too far into the forest on the wrong sort of night. One wrong move, the lore says, and you might just find yourself taken by the fae. You can end up lost in the darkness of their realm for anywhere from one night to forever. Only the luckiest humans find their way back. Don’t Follow The Lights Review Mystic Ventures Collective
I’m about to find out for myself. Because this time, they’ve taken me.
Ali Hass as “Harvest”
Don’t Follow The Lights is Mystic Ventures Collective’s newest online immersive sandbox show about one unlucky night in the realm of the faeries. It starts with a fun premise. The audience members have done the opposite of the show’s title and it’s up to them to figure out a way home. Through exploring the realm, interacting with its denizens and figuring out proper offerings for each faerie leader, audiences have a chance to succeed in finding their way home.
Or they can fail utterly, lost forever. Or they can find multiple different levels of great or terrible endings in between. The audience’s actions as a group make the final determination.
The shows uses a software program called Gather to create a faerie realm that looks like a video game from the original Nintendo Entertainment System era. Audience members move avatars throughout a map of the realm. When they get close to a character’s location of characters, they enter video chats reminiscent of Zoom with the ability to speak and hear each other. Conversations lead to secrets, clues or even solutions for what other characters need. Only through exploration and interaction can the audience find their path home.
Multiple interactive and theatre companies have started using Gather to create spaces where audiences can interact that attempt to mimic the idea of moving through a real space. The goal is to allow more fluid, dynamic conversations where audience members come and go as they wish. Don’t Follow The Lights succeeds in creating that sort of space as other shows using Gather have done.
Shelli Frey — “Decay”
However, if this all sounds like a complicated setup for an interactive online experience—it is. Any company using Gather needs to recognize that it isn’t necessarily intuitive, especially for those who didn’t grow up playing Final Fantasy or Chronotrigger. Helping audience members understand how they interact with this software—both in general and for this specific show—becomes an absolute necessity.
For the final dress rehearsal that I saw, that information wasn’t sufficient for many of the audience including myself. I saw multiple audience members blindly roaming the space, attempting to figure out what they were supposed to do or how they were supposed to interact at all. That lack of clarity impacted both how I experienced the show and what I was hearing from other audience members as it happened. I expect Mystic Ventures Collective to have made significant changes to their audience’s introduction into the show since that night. If not, such confusion may happen for other guests as well.
Joey Moore — “Raven”
That would be a shame, because there are some positives for this show as well. The actors were quite fun to play with, each of them having some clear goals that allowed for improvisation as they responded to audience members. Some of the actors were cold and aloof, such as Dana Soliman’s smart performance as “The Queen.”
Others were more unearthly, such as KC Hyland’s joyfully disruptive chaos as “Nettle.” And some were truly reminiscent of darker faerie tales, such as Shelli Frew’s whispered and torturous “Decay” and the constantly sharp hunger of Kate Martin’s “The Mermaid.” The actors deftly accomplish the spin into a realm of strange creatures and inhuman attitudes.
Kate Martin – “The Mermaid”
The general idea for the show itself works as well. Using a classic bit of folklore to weave this sort of immersive experience should be a lot of fun—and in this case, it often is quite enjoyable. Having guests work together towards an ending determined by their choices has great merit for creating a positive audience space, something we definitely need in the current isolation era.
The iteration of the show that I experienced simply needed more fine-tuning to truly shine in the way that I believe Scriptwriter and Producer Shelli Frew wants. A few tweaks (that I expect will have already happened by opening night) will go a long way in raising this show to its best version. If the audience’s choices will determine the ending, they need to have a clear idea of how to affect those choices. They need to understand the stakes, their options and at least the first stage of what they need to do to succeed.
After all, one of the impacts of making everything look like a video game is that it makes audience members want to “win.” I spent too long confused over my choices to feel like I was winning anything. Locations and characters changed as well during the experience. While this is true to the idea of a strange fae world, such changes were often hard to spot, making it even more harder to ‘solve’ the world. Some characters seemed to require specific things but were not always good at giving me clues as to what those things might be.
Worst of all, I wasted time retracing paths to figure out what I had missed, only to find that a second visit to the same character could generate different answers with the same questions. Such a reaction made it seem as though my actions were generating random outcomes, which seemed at odds with the goal of making my choices matter.
Again, I expect these hiccups to be ironed out when the show reaches its full potential. That’s the point Don’t Follow The Lights will be a show that audiences will be able to follow perfectly well. That’s the version that I wish I had experienced myself.
Don’t Follow The Lights brings a great premise to its audience. With strong acting from its entire team, the show offers audiences a fun take for the Halloween season. When their issues are solved, Mystic Ventures Collective’s show should be a great adventure for this year’s spooky season.
Don’t Follow The Lights has three more performances scheduled this weekend on 10/30 and 10/31. Tickets are $30 and the experience works best on a Google Chrome browser with a headset and microphone. Don’t Follow The Lights Review Mystic Ventures Collective Don’t Follow The Lights Review Mystic Ventures Collective Don’t Follow The Lights Review Mystic Ventures Collective
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