Kassinn (“The Box”), an Icelandic virtual reality show, has just received the Innovation in Performance Award from the Stockholm Fringe Festival, where it was also nominated for the festival’s prestigious Grand Prix Prize.
Kassinn is premised on an infinitely complex idea:
You’re trapped inside of The Box.
You have to adapt to the changing environments of your new reality as it unfolds within Kassinn’s world. In the box, you are the main character, and you’re joined by two guides—actors Ástþór Ágústsson and Nanna Gunnars—who help you to navigate the labyrinth of obstacles within the box.
The production recalls a dream vision—and you, the dreamer, must overcome innumerable trials with the assistance of a dream guide.
“Imagine one day, you wake up to find yourself trapped inside an invisible box, unable to escape. A stranger appears outside of the box. You must find out why you are trapped there, and how you can get out,” Gunnars said.
“But does the stranger really have your best interest at heart? Can you trust the voice inside your head? Is it actually better to stay in the Box, safe from harm? Forever?”
Kassinn is laced with elaborate landscapes (underwater, on a ghost ship) and uncomfortable situations (among them: flying, shrinking, being buried alive in a pile of rocks). Hooked up to virtual reality goggles and gloves, you have freedom of movement, the ability to react to circumstances and—possibly—the strength to step outside of the Box.
The Icelandic virtual reality show is the brainchild of actress-producer Nanna Gunnars, virtual reality designer Owen Hindley (who jointly run the Icelandic production firm Huldufugl), and actor Ástþór Ágústsson. Alexander Dan refined the script alongside Nanna, and Íris Thorarins composed and performed music for the production. Swedish light designers at Svartljus constructed a computerized “light box” for the exhibition.
“It’s the fourth time that we’ve put on Kassinn, if you count the first show, which wasn’t in VR. Then, we used tape on the floor to demarcate the box. Now we have this amazing work of light-art to frame it. It’s incredible to see how the work’s developed with each show—how tape on the floor transformed into a computer-controlled lighting system in 3D,” Nanna Gunnars said.
The team behind the Icelandic virtual reality show is very pleased with its reception. Gunnars says, “we’ve gotten several invitations—and lots of advice—to bring the show to other festivals in Paris, other Scandinavian countries, and the United States.”
And they’re planning to bring the consistently sold-out show back to Iceland in the future.