The House of Cenci: new immersive game theatre combining first generation computer games, Zoom, and centuries of storytelling
Integrating a free-roaming text adventure with live performance on Zoom, the makers of Crisis? What Crisis? and For King and Country have taken immersive game theatre to new levels in lockdown with The House of Cenci. Parabolic Theatre have developed digital castle ruins for audiences to explore while uncovering the events of a harrowing tale. Across four weeks, the secrets of The House of Cenci will slowly unravel for those brave enough to solve the mysteries that lurk behind closed doors.
After 400 years, the secrets of a family tragedy are awakening. Hidden in the depths of the House of Cenci, the truth waits to be set free. Count Francesco Cenci was a tyrant; his daughter a victim and a murderer. Based on the true story which inspired centuries of retellings by artists from Percy Bysshe Shelley to Antonin Artaud, originator of the Theatre of Cruelty, The House of Cenci exposes an awful tragedy and the slow procession to disaster.
To unlock opportunities to travel in time between 1599, 1972 and the modern day, audiences must solve puzzles, complete tasks and deal independently with moral dilemmas. Using the early computer game format of text adventures, the story is split into four acts and live interactive scenes act as a threshold into each. Roam the castle at leisure but live scenes occur weekly on Zoom and for an hour at a time. Audiences must interact with the scenes to find out more and progress to the next act of this horrific digital tale.
The cast include Ed Cartwright (For King and Country, The COLAB Factory; Dr. Thorne) as the Cardinal, Dare Emmanuel (Hunted Live; Portals) as Orsino, Ellie Russo (The Merchant of Venice, The Duke of York’s Theatre; Cavalleria Rusticana / Pagliacci, Royal Opera House) as Lucretia. The House of Cenci also stars Ewan Bagshaw (Bridge Command and England Expects, Parabolic Theatre) as Olympio, Edward Andrews (The Pilgrim; Romeo & Juliet, The Harold Pinter Theatre) as Congressman and Sandy Murray (Shakespeare in Love, Noël Coward Theatre; Fisherman’s Tail, Edinburgh Fringe) as Giacomo with further casting to be announced.
Artistic Director of Parabolic Theatre, Owen Kingston comments, The Cenci story is a fascinating one – timelessly relevant with a huge theatrical legacy. I’ve wanted Parabolic to do something new with it since founding the company, but the scale of the story has always placed it out of reach of our resources. Reimagining immersive performance for a locked-down world has given us a fresh perspective on what is possible, and the hybrid digital/live performance approach that we’ve taken allows us to finally present a worthy adaptation of this story for the modern world.
Parabolic Theatre specialises in producing immersive theatrical experiences. They bring together the worlds of theatre and gaming to continue to push this evolving genre further. They believe that audience agency is at the heart of what makes an experience immersive. They offer audiences the most freedom possible: to explore where they want, talk to who they want, and observe what they want. They make the experience truly the audience’s own.