Game Café 怪客游戏.

Reviewer's Rating

We have all been eager to change a character’s fate while watching a film or sitting in a theatre. Only this time, please sit tight and turn on your phone. Game Café encourages its audience members, whether in the theatre or watching this live performance online in their own space, to vote multiple times on their phone to decide a character’s next move, creating an interactive theatre experience.

The performance takes place at the New Space Theatre inside Shanghai Theatre Academy’s campus, a fringe theatre rebuilt from a German country club back in the 1920s.

Characters include two gangsters (or Bai Xiang Ren in Shanghainese’s description). A female Chinese opera singer owns the café. A fashionable secretary works for a foreigner and her classmate, now a primary school teacher. They all fit the typical impression of a play set during the ROC. Then we find a robotic stranger wearing a pair of sci-fi glasses and a black trench coat: he is the host of tonight’s performance. Our adventure starts here.

There are seven opportunities to vote throughout the play, and this becomes the basic structure of the audience’s interactive involvement in the performance. When it is time to vote, the stranger will appear on stage, pause the show and then present two choices. While waiting for the result, delivered by the stranger later, actors will sing a Chinese opera or a hip-hop-style aria about the choice. After knowing the result, the cast will go back into the story and continue the performance.

Game Café tells the story of a gangster in a rage physically abusing a young lady outside the store after he tried to hit on her but was refused and humiliated. Characters inside the café try different approaches to settle the dispute.

The audience only get the chance to enjoy some of the possible plots based on different vote results. Finally, a man appears on stage pretending to give closure.

The first choice is the gangsters planning to hit on the ladies. The only reason for using the word ‘plan’ is to let the audience make a choice. They can make their moves, hence turning this story into a play; or, all of a sudden, these gents decide to be real gentlemen for once, and let the ladies go. Different choices lead to different paths. This is the first step, and more will follow until we reach the end. Interestingly, even though the ending has two sides, namely a happy ending or a tragic ending, the audience is always the crucial part of this performance. As insiders, we’ve been given the right to decide which emotional outcome we want to experience after leaving the theatre.

The playwright/director William Huizhu Sun, a celebrated Chinese theatre practitioner who is also a professor at this academy, recreated the idea of a chorus into hip-pop and traditional Chinese opera singing during the voting sessions – a brave and visionary transcultural attempt.

It is rare to see a play that allows the power of media to affect its development after the curtain has already opened. William’s visionary experiment should be introduced further to this industry and I hope to see Game Café’s next round at The New Box Space of The Shanghai Grand Theatre.

Summary of the above in Chinese by Yiming Wang 

的情境中给出完美的答案,但试图「逼迫」观众在观演互动时直面自己的选择.当你的投票会切实影响人物命运的时候,你会不会想了解每个人物的不同侧面?希望大家能抓住这个在场的选择权,追问自己的内心:是做一个看热闹的观客?还是承担起道德责任,去为困境中的人找出一个最优解. 带大家做游戏的怪客并不只是一个引领者,他是你我思想的投射、心声的回音板。期待更多不同的声音,一起来为剧中人寻找突围之路。这是一出交互式悲喜悬疑剧。「交互式」的概念近年来已经屡见不鲜,但是如何行之有效地实现观演互动,使观众的参与能够真正影响剧情发展,而不仅仅是隔靴搔痒,仍是有待戏剧人思索、实验的问题。