NEWS: Dear Esther @ Sage Gateshead | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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In 2012, developers The Chinese Room unveiled Dear Esther, a video game like no other. There were no guns, no puzzles and only one, simple goal: to immerse the player in an interactive story, gradually uncovering the mystery of a deserted island. Five years on, as a landmark edition of the game has recently arrived on consoles, Dear Esther continues to be pioneering.

The developers and BAFTA-award winning composer Jessica Curry is taking the game on the road, presenting a revolutionary live play-through of the game alongside a performance of her score, which comes to Sage Gateshead on Sunday 21st January. Helping make the transition from living room to auditorium is creative producer Laura Ducceschi. At first though, she was unsure if the leap from small to big screen would work. “When I was asked to talk to Jess about her project with a producer’s hat on, if I am to be honest I was a little resistant first of all, as gaming is a world I am not connected to at all,” she explains.

Imagine a film being literally shot in front of you, watching the camera being piloted around the world in real-time, and you are close to what the experience will feel like

It was Dear Esther’s distinctive take on gaming that helped to persuade Ducceschi. “I wouldn’t have got involved in a shooting, car chasing, blowing-up-aliens type of game,” she says. “I am a sucker for beauty, sonically and visually speaking, and narrative is hugely important for me.” Dear Esther has all of those elements in abundance, plunging the audience into a stunning Hebridean environment through a first-person view as fragments of the story slowly unravel themselves. Curry’s score also forms a vital part in world-building, and is set to be brought vividly to life with a combination of electronics, a soprano, a string quartet pianist and an actor to explain details of the narrative. “Amplifying classical instruments with electronics is always a delicate balance, so making sure we nail that is a focus of each live date.”

However, Curry’s score is far from the only immersive element, as the audience are presented with a huge screen that makes gameplay a central focus. As Ducceschi explains though, even if you’ve played Dear Esther before, you shouldn’t necessarily expect a similar adventure. “The live show has been built so every each time it is performed it is a new experience,” she says. Instead, the player makes decisions en route, dictating the speed and mood on the night, further reflected in improvisations by Curry and her team. “Imagine a film being literally shot in front of you, watching the camera being piloted around the world in real-time, and you are close to what the experience will feel like,” Ducceschi explains.

It’s set to be an enveloping experience, one that could easily ensnare non-gamers as much as enthusiasts, just as it did with Ducceschi herself. “Dear Esther opened my eyes to a level of beauty I had no idea existed in gaming,” she says. “I was seduced by this gaming technology that could draw you into an immersive world letting your imagination run riot.”



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