“There have been some incredible innovations and wonderful experiences created in this time.” | James Dillon on crafting online immersive horror, Siren

Tell us about your show, Siren.

Siren is an online immersive sci-fi horror show where the audience are a crew sent to investigate a derelict spaceship and uncover what happened to the crew and see if anyone or anything survived.

I’ve been developing the idea since last summer whilst working on other online immersive shows and I wanted to try my hand at sci-fi horror to push the limits of what was possible in this medium so many of us have been exploring during lockdown.

How much of a relationship does it have to shows you’ve done in the past?

I suppose it has strong connections to the last show I created, Viper Squad, which was an online immersive 80’s action adventure where the audience had to try and foil an ongoing bank heist. I often referred to it offhandedly as ‘online immersive Die Hard’. It was great fun, presenting the audience with difficult choices under pressure, communicating with villainous criminals, SWAT teams, and the different outcomes lead to vastly different endings. People really enjoyed knowing that their interaction had consequences.

Siren is similar in that sense of immersive storytelling with an audience, making unique choices and multiple endings, but with a sci-fi horror edge. It is also a much quieter and a more intimate and personal experience for the audience.

What is your trick to creating effective immersive shows?

Firstly being as welcoming and encouraging as possible to your audience to get them engaged and open to interact in the ways that are suitable for the show. And secondly, creating a world that is exciting, detailed, and interesting to them to inhabit and explore.

How did you go about applying that sense of immersion to a virtual show?

This has been a struggle for performers creating online work since last year and there has been some truly impressive and imaginative shows that have worked in this medium. The work of The Show Must Go Online, Jury Games, Parabolic Theatre’s We Have a Situation and the work of CtrlAlt_Repeat, just to name a few.

For me it’s important to not ignore the fact we are online, but to integrate that into the show. Using all the available technology to get audiences to interact with the world of the show and the cast directly. If this is through chat functions, websites to information during the show or simply by communicating.

After that it’s about using the technology we have to create engaging visuals, sound and storytelling. 

Have you taken anything from creating shows for a digital audience that you’ll carry forward into your work post lockdown?

That the most memorable moments from any immersive show, as cast or audience, is when you have a personal experience that feels unique to you and that audiences feeling their actions in a world have consequences is incredible and memorable. 

We had a bomb defusal scene in Viper Squad, it was a fun action cliche to defuse the bomb just in the nick of time. But I didn’t want it to feel like defusing it was a guarantee. So myself and the creative team developed an outcome where the audience can get it wrong and the bomb explodes. Despite it being a huge lose moment, the audiences loved it as it meant what they did mattered.

How do you think the past year has impacted live performance in general?

Live performance has either had to socially distance, close or go online. I think the repercussions to the industry of live performance is still yet to be seen fully. However there have been some incredible innovations and wonderful experiences created in this time. I mostly hope these creatives are seen and respected as traditional live performance begins to run as usual.

What are your hopes and expectations for the show?

I’m hoping I can create a truly unique experience for those willing to join a crew and venture into space with us.

What do you hope people take away from the show?

The feeling that their choices had an impact during the show and hopefully a chill running down their spine.

Siren is running online from Friday 7th May 2021.

Book your ticket here.

You can follow the show on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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