Wednesday, 19 October 2016
the kind of westworlds i have visited
I've been watching the Westworld series, which is based on a Michael Crichton story about robots in a closed system that go wrong. Crichton had form with that plot line, having used variants in The Andromeda Strain (microorganisms in the desert), Jurassic Park (dinosaurs in a theme park) and Congo (a closed gorilla world).
Inevitably there's some Disney-esque aspects to the Westworld approach, with the notable exception that Disney is family friendly and uses people instead of robots for most of the characters.
I've visited the Magic Kingdom many times with its monorail or steamship entrance to the park. So many times that I know my way around many of the service back roads and have even shown taxi drivers shortcuts.
Inside there's that steamship that circles the small island inside the park. I don't think its even listed as a ride, yet its a full sized steamboat.
There's the full sized railway to get quickly to Tomorrowland. Everything looks realistic. Even the street scenes that change suddenly around a corner from Manhattan to San Francisco.
Of course, like in the movie sets, they want you to know that its done with tricks.
Across in the Animal Kingdom there's a battered locomotive that picks you up to journey through the savannah.
And wherever you are, every so often there's a character or sudden parade to remind you that it's all great fun.
I've had a different experience with the Punchdrunk shows. They have a more limited universe, contained within a single building. The whole of the Battersea Arts Centre was used for Red Masque and an entire dilapidated Post Office Sorting Office was used for The Drowned Man. These shows are more like what Crichton envisages in Westworld. If Disney plays external, the Punchdrunk experience internalises much of what happens.
To begin with, every 'guest' wears a mask. A cloak as well for the Red Masque.
Then it's free format to browse the entire huge set. Arrived with others? You'll get split up. It's inevitable- maybe even on the way in through dark and winding corridors or through mis-functioning elevators or stagger unexpectedly through black curtains.
Stumble across desert hotels, cowboy camp sites, the middle of arguments by jilted lovers. Find altogether freaky moments, crazy science experiments and still wonder how much you are missing.
Know that sometimes the fastes way to a new experience might really be by walking into the back of a cupboard filled with clothes or even into a fireplace chimney. I missed a whole bar filled with people the first time I visited Drowned Man, and in another area could only watch a show from on the stage itself.
And then, sometimes get picked out by a "host" for an unexpected one-to-one interaction.
Be stopped from entering areas by the police, and then wonder why others get through.
It's an altogether different experience from the lightheartedness of Disney, and designed to play with your head as much as Disney plays with your heart.
And what about Westworld? I remember the original movie, which maybe at the time had some of the effects that others have copied.
It was made back in 1973 and dreamed of robot snakes, a combustible crazy robot gunslinger, pixellated night vision scopes and the exterior of a monorail that still looks cool in 2016.
Other aspects were sometimes a bit Benny Hill meets Up Pompeii meets Monty Python and no-one in it was given more than haphazard styling, but there was some underlying design that has been revamped to a modern future history world with its 3D printing and nano-tech.
Me? I'm wondering how to get into the McKittrick.