This article explored the affordances of VR as a performance medium. ZU-UK’s participatory piece Good Night, Sleep Tight acts as a case study to discuss the relationship between artists and technologists, the status of VR as an art form, and the potential interactive technologies have for creating intimate encounters between actors and audiences. The article can be accessed here. It was published in a special edition of IJPADM entitled Performance and VR Practice: New Work for New Environments.
Good Night, Sleep Tight is an interactive virtual reality performance created by theatre and digital arts company ZU-UK. It was previewed at Gerry’s Kitchen in July 2017. Combining VR and binaural technologies, participants are put to bed and transported to a dreamscape composed of childhood imagery and aerial cityscapes. This artistic position remixes the audience’s experience and the artistic processes of Good Night, Sleep Tight to proffer a critical engagement with the aesthetics of VR. Theories pertaining to VR and theatre are emerging but not yet fully established. The discourse between technologists and artists is key to understanding how VR is a new artistic medium requiring a language not solely redolent of gaming or theatre. The format of this article reflects ZU-UK’s contention that VR experiences are best designed as collaborations between artists and audiences who construct an imaginary world through interactive media. The seven scenes below concentrate on different aspects of the rehearsal process and the final performance from the perspectives of the ZU-UK directors, VR technologists, and participants. Interspersed throughout the article are fragments from the Good Night, Sleep Tight script and a description of the piece from the reader’s perspective, who acts as ZU-UK’s imaginary audience member.