Local theater outfit Dreamweaver's Titanic: Ship of Dreams does with James Cameron's runaway blockbuster hit what Sleep No More did with Macbeth albeit with slightly less production value and polish. It's interactive theater. The line between the performers and audience members is blurred. The "stage" in this case is a boat docked at a wharf off of Binjiang Dadao. They've decked out the interior to look like a transatlantic luxury liner. The moment you cross the gangplank, they try their best to preserve the illusion. You're even given money to spend during the experience. You're handed an envelope stuffed with "Titanic dollars." Presumably playing into Titanic's narrative of class conflict, you can use this currency for a number of things while on board, like gambling or even "bribing" your way up to first class.
Once you're aboard, you move from room to room, simply taking all of it in, reacting to and interacting with the cast of characters. You sometimes find yourself chasing scenes or searching for something to watch, which adds to the excitement. Some fanboys and girls even show up in full Titanic regalia, so you don't always know if you're interacting with the cast or the audience.
No one ever breaks character, even if you introduce 21st century technology into the performance. We saw someone do just that. As she reached in to her pocket for her smarphone to take a sneaky snapshot, an actor promply admonished her in an affected southern drawl, “Ma'am, put that away! No witchcraft allowed on this ship,” adding, as the abashed passenger complied, “but if you really want to see some witchcraft you should go and check out the room down the hall, I hear there’s some craziness happening over there.”
The set is impressive by community theater standards, too. Each room is decked out with authentic props. You can rummage around, examining objects touching props. The place feels lived-in as you voyeuristically view cast members interacting with their surroundings. Even watching a man at a desk doing something as ordinary as writing a letter has a dramatic effect. You can't resist the urge to get close and look over his shoulder to see his words. And you actually can. There's no velvet rope or barricade holding you back. It's all immersive enough that you start almost start buying into it. By the time you get to the final scene, you even find yourself caught up in the panic as they pipe in sounds of a ship groaning and creaking. Then to quell your fears and calm the nerves, you get shot of rum as you're escorted onto the lifeboat to safety.
While they still have some kinks to sort out, Ship of Dreams is still worth it. Productions like these are usually the province of big budget companies with sponsorship. To put this in perspective, Entertainment behomoth AEG brought Sleep no More to Shanghai, and Budweiser sponsored it. For a local community outfit like Dreamweaver, this is an ambitious and impressive effort, and it delivers on most counts. It's fun, interactive, and, while there are certainly plot points and inevitable scripted elements, it is largely improvised and subject to audience interaction, which means that you might not see the exact show every night.
Where: No. 8 Captain's Sailor Wharf, 4298 Binjiang Dadao (near Puming Lu), 滨江大道4298号 (近浦明路）
How Much: RMB680-880. Get your tickets here.
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