Dear Esther Live
Dear Esther Live is a night combining a playthrough of Dear Esther along with live narration, and a live orchestra performing the score of Dear Esther, composed by BAFTA winner Jessica Curry. Originally performed in October 2016 in London, it was reprised in April 2017 for the London Games Festival. The Chinese Room, in conjunction with Music Beyond Mainstream and the Arts Council England, are now taking Dear Esther Live on tour in the U.K. and was performed as part of the Sonica Festival 2017.
The music on the night was fantastic. Listening to it via the OST doesn’t have the same effect as when you hear, and see the game being played, live. The orchestra are also a group you really need to see live. Their music is guaranteed to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end, and if they don’t, you’ll just need to practice letting yourself be overcome by the music.
The narration was honestly the best thing about the night with the delivery, being nothing short of magnificent, and adds an extra layer to Dear Esther that I never thought would have been possible. Again, hearing the narration live is something you need to experience. It’s difficult to put into words but hearing it live, compared to the TV/headphones, was enough give me goosebumps and properly engage me in Dear Esther more than playing through similar games at home have done in the past.
Watching the playthrough of Dear Esther is, on reflection, actually quite relaxing. You don’t have the exploration side of things, as it’s a speedrun of the game and fully exploring a game is my personal preference, but I understand that the night is more about the music and the narration while kicking back and really getting to enjoy the musical and narration side of Dear Esther. It’s something you rarely get to experience as even with a game like Dear Esther you’re still required to play the game.
The main focal point of the night was meant to be watching Dear Esther while everything else went on in the background. However, for me, Dear Esther itself took a backseat whenever the narration would pick up again, or when a member of the orchestra would start a piece of music.
A nice addition to the night was the inclusion of closed captions on screen to the side of the stage. The Tramway had a specific section of the seating area reserved for those in need of captions but the screen was positioned in a way that it wouldn’t block the view of those using the captions. Not sure if other shows are like that but it something that should definitely be included for other similar nights.
One issue I did have was over sound. The music and narration weren’t always on the go at the same time but for times where it was a particularly dramatic scene and the music itself was getting louder it was a little difficult to make out the narration. All that was needed was a mic boost as a few words were missed. It was easy enough to piece together from surrounding context so wasn’t a major issue.
I personally had never played Dear Esther before the event, I had watched a few reviews of it and had a rough idea of what to expect, but I ultimately decided to go into the night blind as rushing through the game beforehand didn’t appeal to me. Having done this did lead to some confusion over what was happening when trying to piece together the main story, however, this only lead to an opportunity for further discussion afterwards with the people I was with. Again this is something, especially nowadays, that you don’t get to experience much anymore, being able to properly discuss with people what’s just happened in a game and properly express feelings on Dear Esther while they’re still raw.
I enjoyed Dear Esther Live as you don’t often get to see a game, live music and the game’s narration performed live on stage. I know there are live video game music events and, while they are enjoyable, it’s an entirely different experience having all aspects of a game in front of you. If you’re a fan of live music, particularly orchestral or video game music, then I would encourage you to go along as it’s an experience you rarely get to be part of. Even if you’re not a video game fan this is something a bit different that you won’t want to miss out on.