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A word in your ear? Side Pony Productions give an intimate twist to the crime thriller. Time Out speaks with writer/director Zoe Pepper

Performed by one actor and five audience members all kitted out in masks and special iPods, The Confidence Man is a crime drama with a difference.

Using a mixture of pre-recorded dialogue, narration and sound effects, this tale of greed and family intrigue is experienced in the first person, with each audience member playing out his or her own unique role in the story.

But if this level of intimacy and interactivity sounds intimidating, don't worry, Side Pony understand.

"Personally, I'm not a fan of interactive theatre. I hate to be chosen," says Zoe Pepper, writer and director. "I wanted to create an immersive experience that I would be happy to do myself as someone violently opposed to audience participation. So the masks are there to give comfort. The participants are not on show. They can hide behind this mask and be in their own little world."

But if even that is too terrifying you can also watch from the sidelines, eavesdropping on the characters’ private thoughts and conversations.

"So there are two different experiences that the audience can have," says Pepper. "In terms of what we wanted to achieve, as an immersive experience, it's really the audio and whether you can transport someone by being in their ear."

The Confidence Man is something of a departure for Side Pony, a group that works mostly in the world of improvised theatre. Here they're combining their love of story with a new technological element. "This is about giving the audience a different experience, a heightened way of engaging the story."

There's also the personal challenge for Zoe and her team. "For us it has been a new level of story craft," she says. "We've written six individual scripts. Ever character has their own script. You have six protagonists, really. The intricacy of that is something new."

And who doesn't love an intricate crime drama?

"We're hoping that audience members will take the reins and embody the story and really drive it along physically," says Pepper.

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By Andrew Fuhrmann   |   Photos by Skye Sobejko

The Confidence Man details

North Melbourne Town Hall
521 Queensberry St, North Melbourne 3051

Telephone 03 9322 3720

Date Wed 21 Aug 2013

Director: Zoe Pepper

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