Performances run 14 – 19 June.

By: Jun. 01, 2023

Exploring the importance of touch, the new show from leading digital performance innovators ZU-UK takes one audience member at a time through a journey from childhood to adulthood and old age through the medium of a bedtime routine. Within Touching Distance is a patient-led artwork, asking audiences to consider the ways that we interact at a sensory level with the world. At the start of the 35 minute production, audiences will put on a VR headset and be gently put to bed by a motherly figure, before being immersed in an interactive dreamscape narrated by a child, and finally experience a palliative care setting. Each stage asks us about the nature of touch and the comfort of human connection.

Within Touching Distance is part of a wider research project exploring the potential of remote haptic technologies, in the under-realised area of touch, for nurses and carers, co-designing binaural sound and 360º video, using the synching platform developed to explore the potential in therapy settings. The project has recently been shortlisted for the Unlimited International Partner Awards 2023, and is made in collaboration with Liverpool Cares, the Centre for Creative Futures and GLASC (Learning & Simulation Centre) at the University of Greenwich. A shorter early version, Goodnight, Sleep Tight, premiered in 2016.

The show will run for the entirety of Sheffield DocFest, the UK's leading documentary festival, as part of their Alternate Realities Programme, and is the only event in the programme that features a live performer.

Writer and director Persis Jadé Maravala, said, “Touch is important in human development, it unlocks the automatic response system of the body to recognise safety and is therefore an important tool in the treatment of mental illness and trauma. As a patient now in recovery myself, it helps with the lingering effects of depersonalisation and derealisation. We wanted to explore this through Within Touching Distance, combining touch with the synchronised use of VR in order to invite audiences to experience empathy through human contact.”

Formerly known as Zecora Ura and Para Active, ZU-UK is an established multi award-winning theatre and digital arts company. ZU-UK is based in Newham and Liverpool and led by immigrant working-class artists Persis Jadé Maravala, who was the sole recipient of the inaugural ABTT Stephen Joseph award in 2021, and Jorge Lopes Ramos. ZU-UK believes in the need for shared rituals, new narratives & experiences that empower those most vulnerable to experience and make excellent art. ZU-UK creates interactive experiences using games, performance and technology. They can happen anywhere including on your phone, in your house, on a stage, in a shopping mall or a field. Previous projects include the serious game Radio Ghost, VR experience Goodnight, Sleep Tight, the post-immersive dating experience Binaural Dinner Date, #RioFoneHack at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, interactive audio experience Pick Me Up (& hold me tight) and Project Perfect Stranger & Plague Round.

Sheffield DocFest is the UK's leading documentary festival and one of the world's most influential markets for documentary projects. They champion and present the breadth of documentary form – film, television, immersive and art – in the vibrant city of Sheffield each June. Their programming represents their core values – creativity, empathy, freedom, inclusivity and internationalism. Alternate Realities is Sheffield DocFest's programme for exhibiting and showcasing innovative non-fiction and immersive documentary in all forms. Whether using new technologies or creative techniques which break the boundaries of traditional documentary practice, the Alternate Realities programme highlights the bravest most intriguing developments in non-fiction by artists, technologists and documentarians.

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