This Theatre Experience Takes Its Cues From Old-School Video Games

Marx, Mario and audience control are at play in a video-game based interactive experience that's on another level.

At this year’s Push Festival (January 18 to February 4), video games and theatre converge in asses.masses, an immersive experience in which the audience holds the reins—or, in this case, the controller. Co-creator Milton Lim explains its essence like this: “It’s quite flexible… if you’ve played Super Mario Bros., the first level teaches you how you might want to play it.” Instead of Mushroom Kingdom (the main setting of Super Mario Bros.), the participant navigates a post-industrial society as an unemployed ass (the donkey kind). Sassy and political, the narrative is best described as Animal Farm meets Aesop’s Fables, but retold by Franz Kafka, Karl Marx and Sonic the Hedgehog.

Vancouver conceptual artists Milton Lim and Patrick Blenkarn
Vancouver conceptual artists Milton Lim and Patrick Blenkarn have created a truly unique theatre experience
that lets the audience take control.

So who’s playing? “Sometimes, we’ve seen audience members jump up and grab the controller and have no idea how to use it,” says Patrick Blenkarn, the other creative mind behind the production. The main character is the audience and every performance is a unique experience that often includes chanting, cheering and playful negotiation between audience members—even filling strangers in on what they missed when they return from the washroom. “We often describe asses.masses as this mix of a live movie marathon and this sort of communal-
couch-co-op-meets-binge-watch,”Blenkarn says.


Sharing a passion for the relationship between form and theme, Blenkarn and Lim, after meeting at Simon Fraser University, teamed up to reimagine how audiences take in theatre. “Video games have been a huge part of culture for almost our entire lives,” Lim shares. Drawing from classics like Final Fantasy and Donkey Kong (the non-donkey kind), they’ve crafted a performance that resonates across generations—an intersection of play, politics and some sneaky wisecracking humour. “Actually, someone did come up to us at an intermission and was like, ‘I only just realized how many ass jokes are in this. This is ridiculous,’” says Blenkarn. Their cheeky reply was, of course, “Thank you.”

For the full lineup of events at this year’s PuSh International Performing Arts Festival, visit


WHEN January 20 and 27 and February 3 at 1 p.m.

WHERE Waterfront Theatre

COST From $16.75