If you’re craving something different this summer, Surrealmight be the evening entertainment you’re looking for.
Surreal is an interactive play written by Darby and Nick Steeves, a charismatic, young brother-sister duo from Maple Ridge, B.C. I met up with them on a beautiful evening in Gastown to talk about their unique play and the story behind it.
“We wanted to create something different from the usual walking tour,” says Darby. She worked as a model and actress in New York and Los Angeles before returning back to her roots in BC. “I met my family for dinner one evening where my brother told me about the work he had done already on the project and I was hooked”.
The audience is asked to meet at a secret location downtown. The actors then take the audience through the historic streets of Gastown as the story unfolds. It’s an original take on the traditional theatre plays – but instead of standing on a stage, the actors are right there with the audience and all the unexpected aspects that city life can throw at you. “It makes it so much more interesting,” explains Darby as an ambulance blasts by. “The biggest challenge is awareness. Although Surreal is a live production and stage technique is required, we are inviting our audience to get as close to the actors as a camera would be on-set for film and television”.
The initial idea to produce an interactive play in Vancouver came after Nick saw a play in New York called Sleep No More. “It takes place in a warehouse that’s been designed to look like a 1930s hotel. In it, there were dozens of characters that you followed around all through the ‘hotel’, which I found to be such an amazing experience.” Nick, who is a product manager at a tech company, says.
The play will definitely appeal to 20-something Vancouverites. “We’ve taken a lot of inspiration from personal experiences; the play is mostly for adults aged 20-35. It incorporates a lot of elements of modern relationships and careers that adults of this age will most likely have experiences with.”
At one point, the audience are not just standing by watching the actors, they are actually helping the story along. Nick elaborates on this, saying: “Surreal is interactive. Audience members follow the story and characters wherever it goes, engaging with them to help progress the story. Unlike conventional stage theatre, Surreal brings the audience face-to-face with the story and characters, creating a wholly engaging experience.”
The play has a two main actors, with five actors on rotation. One of the actors, Lee Shorten, immediately loved the play when he read the script. “A mutual friend of Darby’s kindly suggested I might be a good fit for the part. I was pretty much on-board from my first meeting with Darby… Nick and Darby are trying something a little different, pushing the medium and who doesn’t want to be a part of that?”
“I was blown away by all the actors involved,” says Darby. “The calibre of talent in this town, combined with the standards of professionalism, made for a seamless casting process”
So what do the actors think is the biggest challenge? “Not sucking horribly,” Lee says with a laugh before adding: “I think my biggest challenge is delivering a complex and nuanced performance. Over the course of the evening, I hope that the audience really connects with Tom -and not just any Tom but a fully realized Tom with hopes, insecurities, idiosyncrasies. Love him, hate him, feel sorry for him… maybe see something of yourself or a friend in him. Ideally, you leave thinking that what you saw could have been a real evening between two people and not a play.”
Photos of Darby, Nick and Lee by Wai Sun Cheng. See more of his work on his website