Angus Yellowlees is an actor and writer for Morpheus theatre company, who create interactive digital shows for blindfolded audiences, we caught up with him about what they have been up to.
Tell us about Morpheus, how do the shows work?
Morpheus is an interactive and immersive theatre experience, performed through Zoom. Through music, sound effects, world-building narration, and conversations with characters, it allows players to become fully immersed in the story, without leaving the comfort of their own sitting rooms. They do, however, have to wear a blindfold and be ready to take charge. Its like theatre meets an escape room meets dungeons and dragons, but online!
What shows are running at the moment? Are they all different?
Currently we have five shows in repertoire, they’re all completely different and range from mind-bending missions in the desert, to museum jewel-heists, to Regency era whodunnits and post-apocalyptic meltdowns. We have just launched two new shows, one being my first from-scratch production, which is called Manor of Lies.
What’s the best reaction you’ve had during a show?
I’ve actually withdrawn a little from the performing side in order to focus on writing and other work that has come up. However, when I was narrating, I was always surprised by how ingenious but also violent some of the young people were! In our Halloween show, for example they’d often attempt to steal weapons from the kitchen to fight-off the various witches and ghouls in the show – something which forces the narrator to seriously think on their feet.
It’s also really pleasing to watch when somebody has really picked up on all the small details and backstories of Manor of Lies. One audience member, right at the end, when confronted with the question “I guess you know everything, then?” seemed to have an epiphany and reeled off everything I’d written, right down to the least significant window-dressing details!
Do you need to book in with friends or can you book in on your own?
You can book in either with mates or on your own – I suppose it depends how adventurous you feel. I’d suggest that if you don’t like talking to strangers then the party option will be the most fun as Morpheus needs you to all work together as a team.
You were performing in the West End just before the pandemic, how did you come to Morpheus and how did you come to write one of the shows?
Yeah, we wrapped on Touching the Void three weeks before the first lockdown, but then there seemed to be so little work out there, and the industry seemed so dead that it was hard to know where to start. I found out about Morpheus through a friend and joined the team, initially as a narrator and performer. Then after chatting to Yana about the scripts and my own writing, I began editing and adapting the shows from the translations we had from Russia. I also produced a number of the pre-recorded voice-overs we use and eventually, I was asked to write whole new versions of existing shows. With Winter Rescue – our Christmas show last year – proving a success, Yana asked if I wanted to write one from scratch. I jumped at the chance and thought, with the popularity of Bridgerton and period dramas generally, what better theme than a regency whodunnit!? And that’s how Manor of Lies came to be.
With lockdown easing, do you think there’ll still be a place for digital shows in the future?
I suspect there will be. Obviously, I would love to see a major return to in-person theatre, however, I think the pandemic and digital shows have created an accessible alternative for many people all over the world. In the UK, with our government’s particularly dim view of arts funding, arts education, and local outreach, that accessibility and inclusivity will still mean something, even when the big theatres open their doors. On top of that, digital theatre has really pushed the boundaries of what and how people experience drama, and I hope it will continue to do so, both in support of the in-person industry, and as an innovative new competitor. The more art the merrier I say!
Angus Yellowlees is an actor and writer for Morpheus theatre company, who create interactive digital shows for blindfolded audiences. They currently have five shows running https://morpheus-show.co.uk/