“Don’t Go Looking”: Exploring the world of virtual horror

A one act play, “Don’t Go Looking” explores the realm of online gaming and is set to shock the audience. A “four-country collaboration”, the play will be performed live from three different continents

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Garima Sadhwani

The title of Bombay Theatre Company’s latest is a foreboding and sums up the entirety of the play in a phrase, says the director. What is it, you ask? “Don’t Go Looking”.

A one act play, “Don’t Go Looking” traverses through the realm of online gaming and is set to shock the audience to their bones. A “four-country collaboration”, as the director says, the play will be performed live from three different continents.

Raveesh Jaiswal, the director, shares that the idea for this play originated back in July 2020, when he was still working on his first play, and his co-actor Nandan Majumdar suggested they try their hands at the horror genre. He adds, “I am happy that Nandan is a part of this play, it was his idea in the first place.”

Jaiswal says that going into this, he knew that horror is anyway not an easy genre to pull off, and doing the play online is a challenge in itself, but he credits his team for rising up to the occasion and giving their best. He even says that the cast also played the role of assistant directors, because “they have significantly contributed in directing this play”.

The writer, Joshua Gallagher, agrees. He explains that writing horror is tricky because one needs to make sure that the audience isn’t spoonfed scares, and every tool needs to be utilised in the online mode, or else the whole play might fail. “There is a fine line between horror and comedy, and it is the writer’s job to ensure it’s one not crossed. I've found that when performing online you need to have a combination of the two, as we have a very short window of time to both enthral and scare those watching,” says Gallagher.

Working from three different continents on the play was a challenge, but Jaiswal says he’s very grateful and proud of the cast that he brought together for the play. The toughest task though? Juggling across four different time zones, fixing up rehearsal schedules and getting everyone on the same page, laughs Jaiswal. However, he adds, “Whenever we meet for our virtual rehearsal sessions, it feels like we all are in one room!”

His actors agree in unison. Ola Normelli, who hails from Sweden, says, “The experience of actually getting close to someone you’ve never met physically feels very special to me”. Kimberly Alexander, joining the cast from LA, echoes the same sentiment. “I’ve absolutely loved being a part of this process because of the opportunity to connect with other artists from all over the globe,” says she.

The play has reminded the director that virtual technology allows artists to think without any constraints, and strive to be global brands while working from home. Nandan Majumdar says, “What I love about digital plays is that it brings theatre to people's homes. Instagram in particular makes it so much more intimate and accessible than it ever was, eliminating all kinds of barriers between the audience and the play”. It makes sense then that the play also uses the narrative tool of online gaming.

“Don’t Go Looking”: Exploring the world of virtual horror

Bombay Theatre Company is now working on adapting an international short play into a short film, and will start staging plays in Mumbai from December this year.

But as for this one, as Jaiswal says, “Remember, don’t turn off the lights, ignore the pipes, ignore the creaking floor boards and whatever you do.... Don't Go Looking.”

The play will go live on Bombay Theatre Company's Instagram handle on 7th November at 10:30 pm.

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