Castle Gillian is a curious exercise in virtual reality. Victor Kazan and Kevin Purcell’s musical is strictly a traditional adventure, but the actors are in a VR landscape you can explore with your phone or device or watch with a headset.
Set in Ireland, this has the sense of the whimsy as a young man, Gill, returns from the Second World War to his ancestral home in this adaptation of Maurice Walsh’s romance novel.
Gill has a sister, Mary, and an adversary, Garret, who wants both Mary and the estate, with its racing stables. It’s a take as old as time and as obvious, but it does lend itself to the epic scope of song.
I am reviewing the 360 version rather than the immersive one (purely for ease of watching); and although I do understand the skill behind these productions, I found the use of the concept a little unnecessary, and felt I was working too hard to see what I wanted to see.
Both book and plot are very old-fashioned, which jars slightly with a modern approach; however, I generally liked the songs and would have welcomed more of them. There is even, yes, Irish dancing, courtesy of Liam Ayres and Kieran Harvey.
Garret is a hissable villain of the old school, while Gill’s sweetheart Sylvia is deeply sympathetic, and his father (also Gillian) feels as if he might have given up. Basic characterisations we have seen many times before.
The cast are drawn from Australia’s musical theatre (Brenda Addie, Zak Brown, Paul Dawber, Mark Dickinson, Adrian Li Donni, Madeleine Featherby, Nigel Huckle, Cameron MacDonald, Jordon Mahar, John O’May, Angela Scundi and Sam Ward).
For me, this is a digital musical with potential, with the VR locations beautifully done – if you like Finian’s Rainbow, you may appreciate this, and especially if you like something with a modern touch.