In April 2015, producer Simon Bedford invited theatremaker Roslyn Oades to collaborate with him on a project inspired by the German board game, Waldschattenspiel. Simon had heard about the game a few years earlier and since then had been keen to develop an interactive and collaborative work for young people/families that was set in a magical forest and played in dark.

DEVELOPED IN CONJUNCTION WITH YOUNG PEOPLE

A key part of the development of In A Deep Dark Forest has been the inclusion of children as part of the making process. It would have been impossible to create an immersive game of this nature without their direct input and Simon and Roslyn worked exceptionally hard to collaborate with and learn from this target audience. 

The project was selected by ArtPlay, City of Melbourne’s dedicated arts space for young people, to be part of their New Ideas Lab in Spring 2015 – the selection panel (made up exclusively of children aged between 9 and 13 years) rated the In A Deep Dark Forest concept as their number one choice. ArtPlay’s profound support and expertise in creating innovative art projects with and for children enabled Simon and Roslyn to workshop their ideas with a brains trust of 8 to 13 year olds from conception through to test games.

A game played during a development workshop

A game played during a development workshop

GAMES

A significant area of research was the exploration of games and game mechanics. Myfanwy Jones, co-author of Parlour Games for Modern Families and Miles Franklin Award nominee 2016, was the project’s games mentor. The joy of game playing and Myfanwy’s writing on the subject, as well as her mentorship was a profound experience for the creative team and provided them with a deeper understanding of the potential of games as a narrative building tool.

DESIGN

The project's aesthetic is strongly informed by board games, pop-up book traditions and silhouette cut-outs with the aim to situate the participant within a giant storybook environment. The major feature of designer Rainbow Sweeny’s set is an enchanted pop-up forest formed from distinctive triangular cardboard trees. Robert D Jordan’s surround-sound mapping is also a key feature of the immersive experience – build atmospheres, enhancing tension and punctuating the live game action.