Oberon 11 - Anywhere Festival

‘Oberon 11’ // Anywhere Festival and Inscape Assembly

‘Oberon 11’ was mystifying.

Is Captain Albatross guilty of stealing all the birds? Or is Desiree Iris responsible for trafficking human organs? 

Presented as part of Anywhere Festival at The Paint Factory, ‘Oberon 11’ tests the limitations of immersive theatre. Taking audiences on an experience filled with mystery and magic, Inscape Assembly has created an instant hit with their latest and original production ‘Oberon 11’. 

An immersive performance from the get-go, ‘Oberon 11’ is a twist on the classic murder mystery party game, where audiences play their part in uncovering who was wrongfully convicted. Charged with intergalactic crimes, Captain Albatross, Désireé Iris, Craig Thompson and Barrasoman are sentenced to an eternity of imprisonment. Everyone is guilty until proven innocent. As audience members/detectives/judges, it is our job to uncover the innocent victim amongst the den of delinquents.  

Theatre, as a concept, is related to the idea of ‘play’. After all, scripts are plays and actors play characters. However, it is not often that these words are transformed into the idea of a ‘game’. This is why, when arriving at the Paint Factory, I was surprised to hear the producers encourage us to have fun and actively participate. Soon enough, the 12 audience members were debriefed with the expectations and overall flow of the performance. Once the play started, the Warden (Phoebe Quinn) pushed us to interrogate the prisoners and raid the set for clues. It was unavoidable to think of an ‘escape room-type’ experience. 

 Undoubtedly, Escape Rooms have become incredibly popular over the last few years. They attract young audiences in ways that most local and professional theatre productions can only dream.  And yet, these games’ settings are rather dramaturgical. Incorporating the tools of developed theatre and the environment of an escape room, Inscape Assembly utilised dynamic sets, technical design, a framed storyline, detailed puzzles, and time restraints to produce a ‘universe’ of experience. 

 Devised by writers Matilda Buck, Haley Meekan and Madeleine Keeble, the performance is a cleverly crafted and adaptable piece that highlights the hostile politics of prison life. I imagine writing multiple monologues and including intricate character details were tedious tasks, but the team has done an imaginative job.  

Director David Wotherspoon and assistant director Matilda Buck used the space strategically, incorporating the natural architecture and grunge of the Paint Factory locker-room. Wortherspoon and Buck’s use of stage props perfectly encapsulated the lives of those imprisoned in ‘Oberon 11’, whilst also presenting an uncomfortable and eerily personal experience for the audience. After all, we were instructed to read private love letters, unlock keepsake boxes and open draws and cupboards. It was clear the directors focused on character improv and ensured all audience questions could be answered by the performers. This was an impressive production, one of which the directorial team should be proud of. 

 The cast’s performances in ‘Oberon 11’ were compelling and elaborate. Phoebe Quinn, as Warden, delivered a powerful and intimidating performance. As the Warden, Quinn controlled the show’s flow and commanded audiences to participate. Her acting ability excelled through her intermittent scenes and her presence was frightening throughout the rest of the performance. 

Jake Brown, as Captain Albatross, captivated audiences from the beginning. His slurring speech, menacing facial expressions and stiff ‘wooden leg’ presented the perfect pirate stereotype. While his love for birds made for an excellent punch line for other performers, Brown remained grounded in his role throughout the show. 

Desiree Iris, played by Mikayla Dymock, was the only female prisoner within ‘Oberon 11’, making her one of the main outliers of the show. Dymock’s skilful performance made for an uptight, defensive character. In the group scenes, her emotional outbursts enchanted the audience, which made her moments of composure even more alluring and mystifying. 

Next to her cell lived the juvenile Craig, played by Daniel Johnston. His youthful charm deterred audiences from a hard interrogation and instead encouraged us to join him in a game of basketball. Johnston’s ability to cleverly steer the conversation away from his alleged crimes, made for an interesting and dynamic performance. His angsty, yet humorous demeanour was fresh and balanced the show perfectly. 

The final and most interesting prisoner was wizard Barassoman, played by Tim James. James’ mischievous and wild performance was fascinating, and creepily frightening. His wide-eye possessiveness of his cell block and all its contents made for an interesting space to inspect. His vigorous performance both engaged and deterred audiences in the best way possible. The character’s infatuation of a fellow inmate also made for an engaging side plot of the performance. 

The plot of the 45-minute performance was full of meaning and endless mysteries that made for a challenge to unpack. ‘Oberon 11’ was a mystifying and clever piece of modern-day theatre. The beautiful, immersive atmosphere is a testament to both the production team and cast of Inscape Assembly.

‘Oberon 11’ performs until Saturday, 21 May 2022 at The Paint Factory, Yeronga. For more information and tickets, visit Anywhere Theatre’s website

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