If you love to travel and experiencing something different as part of your plans, The Curious Voyage may just be right up your alley! This unique travel opportunity created by Talk Is Free Theatre is considered the largest immersive theatre experience to come out of North America. And based on what I’ve experienced in a previous production in Toronto, you’re in for quite a ride!

The Curious Voyage runs October 23 to November 10, 2018 and takes place over three days in two different locations. The experience is open to groups of no more than 36 participants per booking (there are several departure dates available). Starting out in Barrie, Ontario, audiences will explore sites following a narrative trail of breadcrumbs designed specifically for them. Each participant will experience something unique to them. Expect to be mostly on your feet while you have encounters with roving “strangers”, mysterious assignments and more. Then hop on a flight (Air Canada) and continue the theatrical adventure, half way around the world in London, England. The adventure culminates in a site-specific mystery musical (a well-known Tony Award-winning work) and audiences won’t know what musical they are part of until it unfolds at the secret location in London.

Artistic Producer Arkady Spivak  explains, “We produced a number of site-specific creations in the past, such as Tales of an Urban Indian staged on a moving city transit bus (which is now on a multi-year tour) and, more recently, a roving production of a major musical The Music Man.

The Music Man was performed throughout real-life locations of Barrie’s downtown core, with sites matching those in the show’s plot. This was a massive undertaking combining an Equity company of 11 artists and 50 children and non-professional adults from the community in a variety of smaller roles. Despite massive logistical challenges of constantly moving a total of 150 people (including an audience of 100) around a living city without closing any sites and having to collaborate with an array of venue partners (a library, City Hall), this was a successful experiment.

Spivak tells us it was right after the opening week of The Music Man, and while it was still running, that he  got the idea of a three-day long immersive experience, and the one that spanned a much greater distance than Barrie’s downtown.

“What I realized at the time of The Music Man was that our site-specific practice up to that point had not at all leveraged one of the key ingredients of the convention – the patron themselves,” says Spivak. “What if we made the patron part of the story? What if they became the protagonist in the story they are watching? Or as one of the directors of this project, Daniele Bartolini, suggests – what if we created a piece of audience-specific theatre, rather than site-specific? That transformation would fundamentally seek to redefine the relationship between artists and the public by making the public not only the creative partner, but a character in the story.”

He gives us an example, “whereas site-specific work creates theatre specifically designed for a particular location, we now set out to create work specifically designed for every single audience member immersing them amongst a large number of artists. What we are really seeking is a way to allow each audience member to discover their own artistic voice; each performance of the proposed, for example, possibly results in a new outcome.”

What about the locations? “What if we chose the location where a story would actually take place? After all, Tales of an Urban Indian doesn’t really take place on the bus, and The Music Man is not really set in Barrie’s downtown in 2016. We also wanted to marry immersive theatre with the actual journey, providing an awesome opportunity to stretch the boundaries of this form which is gaining great interest and momentum,” says Spivak.

The experience takes place in two different locations so are the performers local? Spivak tells us they are not. “We expect a great number of Canadian artists working in London, especially those involved in the secret musical.”

Who would enjoy this? The curious and open minded traveller of course!  There will be a maximum of 36 people per departure. They do expect some of them to be couples, although this is also intended/conceived for individual participants as well.

My experience with an immersive theatre experience in Toronto with The Stranger by DopoLavaro Teatrale (Daniele Bartolini who is also the Artistic Director of internationally acclaimed DopoLavoro Teatrale) was an unforgettable experience pushing me outside my comfort zone but within safe distance. You can read my review here.

Tickets for The Curious Voyage experience are $1950 single/ $3600 Double. The window of booking is until June 27, 2018. For more information visit curiousvoyage.com or call (705) 792-1949 ext. 122.