They say that reality is for those who lack imagination, drugs or Netflix. Or all three. But what do “they” really know?
Earlier this year, cabaret’s answer to the Manson family celebrated ten years of selling out shows under the joint moniker of Bourgeois & Maurice, purveyors of some of the darkest and wittiest songs songs around. The bad news for their competition (and good news for their fans) is that those deviant siblings Maurice Maurice and Georgeois Bourgeois just don’t know when to stop and now they’ve finally gone…into the fourth dimension.
Next Saturday, the musical duo can be seen in a Opinions VR, a virtual reality experience which includes giant cyborgs, robot armies and one of B&M’s recent numbers before they pop up at . Admit it: we had you at “giant cyborgs”. Those who need a bit more convincing may want to read what exactly went into putting this all together. Over to you, Georgeois Bourgeois…
Reality has never been one of our strong points at B&M Inc., we think it’s overrated and inevitably leads to disappointment. So when we got the opportunity to leave reality behind completely, we grabbed it. Here’s how…
One of the drawbacks to having an email address on our website is that it tends to be a dumping ground for spam. The bulk of our correspondence is mass emails offering SEO services or Viagra pills, plus the annual invitation to audition for Britain’s Got Talent, which we are yet to accept. We’re just not sure songs about Ritalin abuse or chemsex parties are primetime ITV material, but we could be wrong.
So when we received an email last year from a company called Breaking Fourth that said “we think your work could be adapted to work well in virtual reality”, we assumed it was another spammer trying to lure poor unsuspecting queer cabaret artists to their financial doom in pursuit of a high Google ranking. At that time our closest experience of ‘virtual reality’ was 9am at a Sink the Pink after-party.
But the sender was persistent, also contacting us on Facebook and adding the magic sentence ‘I love your work’ – the fastest way to an insecure cabaret act’s botoxed heart. So we found ourselves in a studio at RADA with black boxes strapped to our heads, watching Breaking Fourth’s CTRL; a VR drama set inside a giant computer chess game. Instantly a world of digital possibilities opened up to us – a world in which B&M can roam free, unconstrained by trivial things like gravity or theatre health and safety guidelines.
Opinions, our first collaboration with Breaking Fourth, is a VR music video for one of the songs from our most recent album. In it, the viewer is seated at a table in cabaret club watching B&M perform. Quickly the show falls apart and the walls of the club give way to reveal a digital cityscape deep inside the internet. There are giant B&M cyborgs, robot armies and troll farms, all locked in a fiery, explosive and really quite camp battle for freedom of speech. It’s insane, it’s over the top, and it could only happen in this medium.
Once Breaking Fourth had shown us the potential of VR, we immediately saw how we could use it to explore the world of Bourgeois & Maurice. We often talk of B&M’s offstage lives occurring somewhere in a ‘fourth dimension’, and hint at Maurice’s possible cyborg ancestry. In VR we can make all that happen.
It turns out that cabaret and VR are natural bedfellows. Cabaret, with its lack of fourth wall, brings the audience into the action. The rules of watching a performance, of who is controlling whom, are relaxed and probed. The same could be said of virtual reality – it creates a 360° world for the viewer to explore. The action might be happening in front of you, but if you’d rather turn around and discover what’s behind you, you can. It’s an exciting dynamic between the performer and the viewer. It’s also a total break from the real world. Cabaret’s Emcee invited the audience to leave their troubles outside and join him and Sally in the KitKat Club:
So life is disappointing, forget it!
In here life is beautiful.…
We’re inviting you to strap on a headset, put on some headphones and leave planet earth altogether.
Hopefully this is our first of many forays into VR, and we have plans for an even more ambitious project with Breaking Fourth. Watch this space…and in the meantime, watch Opinions VR at Hackney Empire on 4 November.
Ticket holders for Jonny Woo’s UnRoyal Variety can see Bourgeois & Maurice’s Opinions VR at Hackney Empire on Sat 4 Nov from 4pm – 6.30pm. Limited capacity, first come first served.
Opinions VR will be available for free on multiple VR platforms by the end of the year.