“Traitor” – Tribeca Immersive 2019

Traitor (World Premiere) – UK
Project creators: Pilot Theatre, Lucy Hammond
Key collaborators: Matt Stuttard Parker, Richard Hurford, Rebecca Saw, Lydia Denno, Jonathan Eato.
Plot: “Eight hours ago, teenager Emma McCoy vanished. All she left behind was a game. Now it’s the viewer’s job to find her.”
Duration: 30 minutes


Some of the most interesting experiences that I encountered in the Virtual Arcade – part of the Tribeca Immersive program at the Tribeca Film Festival – used virtual reality technology as only one narrative device of several. One such work was Traitor, the brainchild of Pilot Theatre and Lucy Hammond. This espionage thriller for two audience members and two performers successfully combines live action, interaction, puzzle-solving and VR.


As soon as my partner and I enter the room, we are immediately put to work. Without skipping a beat, Commander Harris announces that we are the new recruits of the Digital Espionage Division on a mission to find a teenaged spy, Emma McCoy, who disappeared eight hours earlier and might be in great danger. We must find her quickly but have to act in complete secrecy.

In a rapid and tense voice, the commander points out the evidence attached to the case. The content of Emma’s backpack is arranged on the shelf in zip lock bags. The maps of the locations across Great Britain connected to the case are displayed on one of the stands. The most promising clue is a thumb drive with a game that was found among Emma’s belongings.


My partner puts on the VR set. But the deceptively simple game of rolling a ball into a target is not easy for him because the controllers that can move objects in the game are actually under my fingers. By pushing buttons and joysticks on a massive black console, I can clearly do something but I am unable to see exactly what. So my partner and I have to communicate with each other about what he sees and what I do in order to solve the riddles. At some point, we switch roles, and now I am doing my best to describe what I am seeing in VR while my partner assists on the console.

The puzzles are not too difficult to figure out, particularly with a second actor, Sarah Rorke portraying Agent Zee, in the room who gently directs us towards the answers if we falter. But the time is ticking and Commander Harris pops in occasionally to check on our progress in her uncompromisingly demanding manner. As we progress in solving the case of a missing teenager, we uncover new layers and soon are faced with a dilemma: do we finish the job that we were hired to do or do we follow our own instinct?


Traitor is swift and intense. The half-hour flies by incredibly fast and it feels packed, not only because of the number of puzzles that need to be solved, but also due to the sense of urgency conveyed through live performances and the ticking timer. Only by working together can the participants solve the puzzles and thus move the story along. There are moments where one needs to lead and the other one needs to follow. Each position, be it in the “parallel dimension” of VR or by the console, provides a set of clues, and only by piecing them together can the whole picture be assembled.

It was especially interesting to go through Traitor with a complete stranger. I noticed that I got impatient when my partner wasn’t describing what he saw in VR clearly enough. But due to its design, I couldn’t do anything on my own so I had to put my ego aside and do my best at spotting my partner and “back leading” in this dance. Besides being an entertaining and thrilling political drama, Traitor also reminds its participants about the importance of tolerance in an attempt to work on something together.

Photos: “Traitor,” Tribeca Immersive 2019, Tribeca Film Festival
all photos by Asya Gorovits / Meniscus Magazine