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Review: SAINT JUDE, 100 Petty France

Review: SAINT JUDE, 100 Petty France

Swamp Motel's latest immersive experience uses AI to explore data farming and surveillance.

Review: SAINT JUDE, 100 Petty France Saint Jude, Patron Saint of lost causes. But at Saint Jude, the first organisation that allows communication between volunteers and irreversibly comatose patients, they say nobody is one. Located at 100 Petty France, just out of St James' Park station, Swamp Motel have set up a new interactive experience using AI. The psychological thriller Saint Jude is unlike anything else currently on the immersive scene, but impeccable and efficiently disquieting aesthetics don't lift a content that - while expertly made - is ultimately underdeveloped.

After reaching an unassuming reception, we're handed a binder with all the necessary information to understand their cutting-edge tech, pass our assessment, and become a Guidestar to the Sleepers. The space has a legitimate waiting room vibe, including clinical, "relaxing" music. David Cumming's thrilling soundscape will accompany the whole journey and it's probably the most striking part of it, other than its innovative use of AI technology supplied by Charisma AI.

It leans more towards a live videogame of sorts than a properly "immersive" production. Yes, the participants have a degree of freedom at their stations, but, by the end, it's clear that we all share the same track and final instructions. Choices become forcibly either-or when the tech is challenged or the plot grows more constrictive, but it's altogether an interesting experiment.

Daria Moria's sets are impressively curated, immersing the public authentically through lobbies and old-timey cubicles. Harsh lights suddenly dim in maze-like corridors, plunging the audience into nightmarish territory. It becomes increasingly affecting when Cumming's compositions kick in at full power with their mix of instrumentals and spectral vocalisations. While this is at times too loud when donning the headphones trying to speak into a mic to the Sleeper, it creates a hazy confusion that fits the bill.

While the dressing is stunning, the story isn't as impressive as the rest of the show. There's no resolution and very little satisfaction to it - not that these are essential in this type of theatre, but you need to come out knowing you did something real. The concept is very cool and it suggests a broader conversation on the future of data farming and surveillance, but it offers nothing in terms of actually digging into its ideas.

The science-fiction of it all is also left up in the air, leaving punters with too many questions that could have been answered by the writers with a second act. As it is, the hour-long Saint Jude is the beginning of a potentially life-and-industry altering adventure.

Saint Jude runs at 100 Petty France until 12 March.

Photo Credit: Alexander Nicolaou

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From This Author - Cindy Marcolina

Italian export. Member of the Critics' Circle (Drama). Also a script reader and huge supporter of new work. Twitter: @Cindy_Marcolina

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