Having recently replayed the video game version of Dear Esther on the Xbox One, everything was fresh in mind, the atmosphere, haunting words, captivating visuals and of course the stunning immersion when the orchestra starts to play, it was something quite glorious on the digital front, but what about in the realest possible way, a live production. We visit the Royal Concert Hall Nottingham to check out another video game making the transformation from digital to the live stage, let’s visit Dear Esther LIVE.
If you have played the game, you know what to expect, a melancholic tale of a man haunted by himself, rambling, trying to decide what is the truth, what is a lie, thoughts mixed in madness that may never be answered. How will this walking simulator translate to the LIVE experience, rather well if I might say so myself.
Dear Esther LIVE is one of the more relaxing experiences I’ve had in the theatre. You sit back, you listen to the enigmatic words of our protagonist, narrated wonderfully by UK actor and Bafta nominated Oliver Dimsdale and you just enjoy the ride.
It feels intimate, you’re listening to this man, his troubles, all just in front of you, while the score is being played. This is the reason why, when the video game came out in 2012, it was met with critical acclaim, not just for its storytelling, but also the powerful score throughout which was composed by Jessica Curry, and here we hear it all fantastically live. It really feels like you are on this Scottish island with the sounds of the wind, the footsteps, the water just giving the immersive experience.
Every compelling point in the story is slowly built up to what feels like a crescendo of misery until we reach the poignant final point. There are certain parts of the orchestra within the live show which seem to overshadow the narration, but this is very few and far between.
Just like it’s video game sibling, Dear Esther LIVE is a beautiful play that lingers in the mind after the curtain comes down. It’s an engaging experience which many praised as art in its release in 2012, and it’s no surprise that it made its way to the live stage over the last year.
Even if you have never heard of the game before, it’s well worth taking a trip to Dear Esther LIVE. The lyrical trawl through the mind, the profound exhilarating score, and the play-through of the game on the stage screen too is something that works amazingly well when witnessed live. There are a few odd points seeing this game played live, with loading screens, and the potential for the player to get turned around or stuck on the in-game environment, but the whole live aspect also keeps the composer and orchestra on their toes only playing their pieces when the scene requires it, and however at times sparse the score can be, when it hits, it stays with you.
Dear Esther LIVE is a real treat to the senses, and, just like the video game, has rewards depending on the interpretation you come to with this story.
Live Score by Jessica Curry, Live Game Play by Thomas McMullan
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