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A front-row sofa at the theatre: binging on VR fringe shows

LIVR allows subscribers to catch up on theatre in 360-degree virtual reality. How does it compare with the fringe experience?

I’m having a beer and enjoying an Edinburgh fringe show from the front row. But I’m on the sofa rather than a folding chair, there’s a cat on my lap and the beer didn’t cost £6. While the pet and the beverage are optional, the large pair of goggles I’m wearing are not. Much fancier headsets are available but this one – which works with my smartphone – comes with a subscription to LIVR, “the world’s first virtual reality content platform dedicated to theatre”.

It’s fringe theatre in particular that the company has focused on. The 360-degree VR experience situates you in the middle of the front row and lets you immerse yourself in the show. Instead of a conventional film, where the emphases have been predetermined in the editing suite, you can choose what to concentrate on. You can switch focus on different performers as they move around the stage and into the audience and, in a manner that would be downright shifty in the theatre, turn and gawp at your neighbours’ reactions to the show. All of this distinguishes LIVR’s service from, say, the polished and slickly edited productions available online from Digital Theatre, which also tend to have bigger budgets and starrier casts. The biggest actor in LIVR’s current offerings is Gyles Brandreth, whose Hamlet with his son Benet at Park theatre is one of the service’s most watched shows.

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