After returning from Afghanistan to her home town Florida, Jess has suffered severe burns, nerve damage, broken bones and much more. The reality of what awaits her is virtually unrecognisable.
As the trauma of her injuries are so severe, she is eligible for a special therapy. This therapy aims to trick the brain in such a way that physical pain is dramatically reduced enabling recovery, but its not only physical recovery that’s necessary.
Due to the injury sustained by ‘Jess’, Fleetwood’s physicality is rather restricted, but in no way does this reduce her performance. In one particularly moving scene we watch in agony as she removes her ‘boys’ clothes to put on a ‘spinner’ dress just like her sister. Every move she takes is clearly agony and every one I felt course through my own body. All through her performance Fleetwood perfectly encapsulates the frustration of helplessness with her cynical and aggressive manor.
Alongside Fleetwood, the rest of the cast though physically capable, seemed restricted, but not by their talent. They seemed to suffer under the all consuming nature of the media landscape and the limiting time frame of the play. Story lines and characters often felt two dimensional in this very 3D world.
Regardless of this, each in turn managed to find a moment to highlight the ripple effect that a trauma has on those closest to a victim.
Luke Hall’s visuals are exceptional. Building Jess’ wintery paradise, we watch her climb to the top of a mountain, battling snow storms, and fallen trees. With just the right balance of realism and digital in the design, the impression of her virtual world is strong. This combined with some excellent moving set design, falling feathers for snow, and bassey trance tracks enables an almost engulfing world. Almost.
Both the acting and the VR were spectacular in their own right. However together I felt there was a missing link. The times which I found myself lost in this world the most, were those moments grounded in reality.
While the technology wowed me in the moment, it was the human interactions and exploration of emotions which had a lasting impact on me.***
You’ve not got long to see this play as it’s finishing 6th June 2017, you can find tickets at National Theatre here.