True to this year’s slogan of UK/ID Festival, Jack Lowe’s Frogman is a piece of work that breaks boundaries - blurs them, even - by combining live theatre and virtual reality (VR), using real-life footage shot during Lowe’s visit to Nusa Lembongan in Bali. Showcased at the Jakarta Arts Institute, Frogman, in Lowe’s own word, is ‘a dark and sinister experience involving diving and underwater search-and-rescue.’
“So the footage that we shot is incredibly beautiful, but in the context of the story, it becomes incredibly sad,”
Involving two interconnected plotlines, Frogman is first set in the present day, with a coral reef scientist interrupted by a police officer who says that her father has been charged with the murder of a 13-year-old girl back in 1995. “Then the story goes back to 1995 and you see the actor as a young girl, as her present-day self recounts every piece of memory she has about that year,” Lowe explains. Over the course of the story, the scene oscillates between theatre to VR in search of the 13-year-old’s body, with a set of rules that the viewer gets to pick and choose. “The audience is framed as a jury and allowed to be critical about what they see,” he continues.
Creating an ambitious project was certainly not without its share of challenges. Although initially conceived in September 2014, it took Lowe two years to obtain enough support and funding as the project was seen as being too experimental, especially since VR is a fairly new approach for the theatre world. “I nearly gave up on the project twice. Nobody wanted to fund it - probably for valid reasons - but I figure there’s always going to be a problem when you’re trying to do something different,” he recounts. However, he refused to give up. “I thought doing Frogman would be a great exorcism of my own desire to make films, but it also made me realise that theatre is so flexible as an art form. It’s much more flexible than people might realise,” he adds.