Review by Rebecca Lynne of Oberon 11 presented by Inscape Assembly

An immersive sci-fi mystery set in an intergalactic prison, can you figure out who the innocent one is?

This interactive experience showcases the budding talent and creativity of the Brisbane performing arts sector. Produced by Inscape Assembly, an emerging theatre collective of three QUT theatre students, the cast and crew behind this work have created a fascinating world.  

Down a dark street and into a converted dressing room within The Paint Factory is where you’ll find the world of Oberon 11. As the audiences are kept small, preshow time spent in the foyer is a great chance to get to know who will be exploring the space with you. Hopefully you have an excellent team of investigators with you.

The story revolves around investigating the lives of four inmates of the intergalactic prison, Oberon 11. Each has been charged with an intergalactic crime and sentenced to an eternity imprisoned. However, one of these convicts is innocent of their crimes. As the audience judges, it’s our job to figure out who’s the innocent one amongst the den of liars, thieves, and murderers. This is no easy task, as each prisoner has a compelling story that cleverly interrelates with each other.

Oberon 11 Promotional Poster

The show begins with the Warden (Phoebe Quinn) bursting through the door and dictating an authoritative introduction to the world. As the Warden, Quinn controlled the flow of the show, sporadically accelerating the drama, and prompting the audience into action. Quinn’s acting prowess shined in her intermittent scenes of taunting the prisoners in ‘therapy’, but her supreme presence faded in one-on-one interactions. Were we judging the prisoners or was she judging us? When approached by audience members, Quinn deflected any interrogative interactions with hostility, smoothly reverting attention back to the prisoners. Although very secretive about her identity, the Warden maintained a commanding presence that became more formidable as the scenes progressed.

Inside, the experience continues to the cell of Captain Albatross (Jake Brown). This was a great choice, as his captivating speech built on the scene set by the Warden. Despite being told we can walk away from a talking prisoner at any time, we were also told to listen to the Captain’s speech first. Unfortunately, it was unclear where his introductory speech ended and the exploration experience began, leaving the audience unsure of whether to stay or go. On the other hand, perhaps it was Brown’s performance that captured the audience’s attention for so long. He played the stereotype of the proud but kooky pirate wonderfully. Parading through the space with his stiff ‘wooden’ leg, going on tirades with a gruff seafarer’s accent, his characterisation was very entertaining. Clearly, his voracious declarations of being a hero to the birds pulled at the heartstrings enough that our audience voted for him as the innocent one. But was that the correct answer? You’ll have to experience the show yourself to find out.

Next to his cell lives the whacky wizard, Barassoman (Tim James). Take a chalkboard wall filled with smatterings of a mad mind, shelves of books and pages, a locked cupboard, and add a few potion making stations and you have Barassoman’s crazy scientist space. James’ playful performance and wild antics were fascinating, though sometimes coming across as immature rather than insane. Moreover, his character’s infatuation and constant flattery of a fellow inmate made for an amusing aside throughout the show, as were her feisty responses. Be kind to the lunatic and he may even offer you a drink of a very special ingredient… Take a sip if you dare!

The only female prisoner, Desiree Iris (Mikayla Dymock), was the object of Barassoman’s unrequited affection. Dymock’s performance of the uptight standoffish aristocrat made for an intimidating yet charming character. In the group scenes, Dymock’s outbursts flourished above the chaos, which only made her moments of composure more captivating. Adorned with elaborate hair, makeup, and an elegant dress, she seemed as if straight out of the Victorian era. Her cell is alluring, furnished with drawers and cupboards no doubt hiding all sorts of secrets. But beware of rummaging without permission – that would be impolite. If you treat her with respect, she might invite you to join her for a cup of tea, although her intentions may not be as hospitable as they seem.

The final prisoner is insecure teenager, Craig (Daniel Johnston). In his cell, audiences are invited to join him in shooting hoops, but if you’re searching for secrets… snoop in a lonely teen’s room at your own risk. Johnston played the wallflower well, easily hiding in the shadows of the other far more intense characters. His angsty mood and mopey monologues created a very brooding aura, effectively hiding him in plain sight. His dullness often led the entertainment-seeking audiences to interact more with the louder characters and steer clear of the angsty teen. Craig might be quiet, but does that mean he’s innocent?

Throughout the show, I was very impressed with the calibre of these performers in their improvised interactions. Although some interactions and monologues seemed to have been scripted, it was clear that most of their reactions with the audiences were genuine improv, with a few rehearsed phrases and monologues sprinkled in. Each character maintained their character through to the end, although seemed to falter a little when interrogated too closely. However, I simply took these moments as indications of an area that hasn’t been explored enough and therefore had little importance for ‘solving’ the story. However, special mention goes to Brown as the Captain and to James as Barassoman, as both were outstanding at maintaining their characters and delivering particularly wonderful improvised performances.

The experience rewarded those who played along and discouraged anyone disconnected from the game. Any mention of ‘reality’ or metagaming were often dismissed or ignored, while audience members who messed with a character’s prison cell were met with a stern in-character talking to. Alternatively, those who feigned interest in their story and asked politely were invited to secrets that would otherwise remain hidden. This was a clever technique to encourage immersion, as the audience became more invested as part of the story whilst they learned more about the characters.

However, the waiting space lacked atmosphere. Adding a bit of music and manipulating the lighting would do wonders for audience anticipation and immersion before the experience begins. Additionally, the show is quite short. Walking away from the experience, audiences are left wondering what they might’ve missed. If given more time to explore the spaces, interact, experiment, and to deliberate as a team at the end, it would have made for a more satisfying experience.

Nevertheless, Inscape Assembly should be very proud of the show they’ve produced. From the set, to the costumes, to the story itself, these young creatives have built a charming world to explore.

Verdict: Although the show is short for the amount of story squeezed in, the space is enchanting and the characters moreso. Spending an evening exploring Oberon 11 is an evening well spent.

Audience Info: I recommend going to an earlier showing so you can re-enter and experience the following session if desired. Walking up from the carpark, there isn’t much signage on the lead up to the performance space. Before the curve in the road, on your left you’ll see the glass doors to the foyer lit from within. An usher will likely spot you as you approach and lead you indoors. Additionally, there are a few steps to get into the foyer, and the toilet is up a flight of stairs, so the venue is not wheelchair friendly. However, the performance space is in a large room with primarily flat ground and plenty of places to sit.

Tickets Here!

When: 11 – 21 May 2022
Where: The Paint Factory – 115 Hyde Rd, Yeronga, Brisbane QLD
Cost: $35 per person

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