The premise of Eden Gate is a familiar one to anyone who has been paying attention to immersive theatre trends in Edinburgh over the past year or so. Similar to Deadinburgh, 2.8 Hours Later and The Generation of Z, it involves the outbreak of a virulent disease that wipes out most of the population (although in this case does not zombify them). The audience is cast as a small core of survivors who must decide what steps to take next.
Eden Gate gets off to a very promising start. Masked, white-suited figures can be glimpsed through doorways, distorted by sheets of hanging plastic. Such an arresting image could get the show off to a great start, were it not immediately undermined by a clunky and slightly patronising explanation from one of the show’s producers that what we are about to experience is a game. A little more trust in the audience’s intelligence would go a long way.
A little more precision would work wonders, too. The format is messy and the medical jargon unconvincing, considering that the setting is supposed to be a research facility. Attempts to keep the details of the outbreak ambiguous feel less like deliberate obfuscation and more like failure to work out the details.
The stakes are surprisingly low – despite the supposedly life or death situation, none of the characters seem to be feeling the strain, nor do they seem troubled by the prospect of imminent death. There is a plot twist that could, perhaps, provide a justification for such a flat emotional state, but even if that is the intention, it is unhelpful in creating a piece of immersive theatre. The audience’s mood and reactions need to be guided by the performers, and everything was just too calm.
As a piece of interactive theatre it also fell short. There was too much prompting and heavy-handed guidance, and the performers simply weren’t light enough on their feet to cope with any curve balls. Interactions that did not fit the plan were simply ignored or clumsily turned aside as the cast tried again in the hope of generating the right answers. More skilful improvisation would have allowed the piece to flow better.
There is certainly some talent and enthusiasm within Produced Moon, and they give the impression that they are capable of better things. With greater clarity, precision, dramaturgy and connection to the imagined situation, Eden Gate could be a very interesting piece – but it has a long way to go yet.