Surreal, an interactive play that roams through Gastown

You better pay attention for this one, because this play requires full audience participation

June 29, 2016

By Dominika Lirette / Photo: George Lawson

As they say, the show must go on, and in this play, it’s up to the audience to make it happen. Surreal, a new show created by siblings Nick and Darby Steeves, has an interactive storyline that moves to various locations throughout Gastown and requires audience participation throughout. “I wanted to create a very interactive and engaging theatre experience,” Nick says. “The current types of media that most people, especially in their twenties and younger, digest—it’s very interactive, very quick, and is always updating.”

The story, written and produced by Nick Steeves, features two actors playing the roles of Charlie (Darby Steeves) and Tom (Luke Sykes), childhood friends that have drifted apart over the years but have recently reunited. Both characters are faced with pivotal life choices and they, along with the audience, help each other through them. “They’re confronted with a person who understands them a lot better than they understand themselves, so they’re forced to make choices that they wouldn’t have thought imaginable up to that point,” Nick says.

Nick describes the story as a romance, comedy, and drama, based on real-life experiences that he and his sister Darby have faced—including with the online dating app Tinder. “It was so easy to create entertaining stories out of Tinder, piecing together experiences from my friends and a very few personal experiences of mine,” Darby says.

According to Nick, “there will be points within the story when the actors will interact directly with the audience in character. Or they’ll do inner monologues to them, but then there will also be points where the audience actually has to participate in order to progress the story along.” For example, Tom is applying for a job in the tech industry at Social Owl (a play on Hootsuite) and his maniacal boss sends him riddles as a test, which the audience will need to help him solve. “It won’t be things that you need prior knowledge of, it will be logic,” Nick says.

As the story progresses, the audience will move with the characters through the back alleys of Gastown to different spots that Nick has mapped out. And while they’ve timed it to try and avoid stoplights and other traffic hazards, Darby says she’s looking forward to the improvisation that a roving play will require. “That’ll probably be the most fun part actually, because it puts you in a very real situation as an actor,” Darby says.

Nick drew his inspiration for the play when he went to visit his sister while she was in theatre school in New York and their family went to see Sleep No More, an interactive show based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth. “It was a far superior experience. I really enjoyed it,” Nick says. Darby, 20, is seven years younger than Nick, 27, and grew up dancing and acting in Vancouver and has worked professionally in entertainment in New York and Los Angeles. Nick works in a completely different field at a tech startup in Vancouver, and saw Surreal as an opportunity to collaborate with his younger sister. “I felt that this would be a great project for us to do together. To kind of become closer and have something that we’d both be working on and sharing together,” he says.

Tickets: $25 at surrealtheatre.com. After purchase, you will be sent an address to a secret location where the play begins.
Dates: June 28 – Sept. 30 | Tuesday and Friday at 8 pm
Starring: Darby Steeves and Luke Sykes, rotating with actors Lee Shorten, Laura Miller, and Cory Beaulieu in the roles of Charlie and Tom.

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