School of Creative Arts Research Forum: Surreal Banality and Aporetic Immersion: VR Dramaturgies in To Be a Machine (Version 2.0) (2023)

Date: 26 Feb - 26 Feb 2024
Time: 10:00 - 11:00
Venue: Neill Lecture Theatre, Trinity Long Room Hub

A seminar by Huayu Yang (TCD) as part of the School of Creative Arts Research Forum.


To Be a Machine (Version 2.0), created by Dead Centre and Mark O’Connell as part of Dublin Theatre Festival 2023, is based on O’Connell’s 2017 nonfiction book To Be a Machine as a sequel to their 2020 online production (Version 1.0). In this updated version, each audience member is taken on a stroll along the theatre and the streets of Dublin through the actor’s perspective. The virtual world and reality, “I” and “he”, become at once confused and irresolvable.

Through 360° filming, the show creates a virtual simulacrum of a fraction of Dublin, the banality of which is however estranged into a surreal scene by random dramatic encounters and the eerie difference of imaging between the camera lens and the human eyes. The sensory mismatch between reality and the virtual replica corresponds with the audience’s conflicted phenomenological experience of immersion, which entails both heightened visceral perception of their own presence and an inclination towards its erasure and ultimate otherisation. This aporetic duality is constantly invoked through AI dramaturgy (Deepfake) and self-references to VR apparatus and filtered bodily sensations. It becomes a key momentum of the show, for which a climax, ending, or death is both a relief and a traumatic collapse. Therefore, by tracing the audience’s sensorial engagement with the virtual aporetic experience of immersion, this article explores how VR dramaturgies in To Be a Machine (Version 2.0) takes the audience on an eschatological journey of both theatre and self in the increasingly virtual world of ours.


Huayu Yang is a PhD student in the Department of Drama at Trinity College Dublin. She received her MA in Comparative Literature from University College London and her BA in English from Shandong University. Her research interests include contemporary Irish theatre, Dead Centre,postdramatic theatre, dramaturgy, and intermediality. She has published articles on these areas for Orbis Litterarum and Dramaturgy of Sex on Stage in Contemporary Theatre.

The School of Creative Arts Research Forum meets weekly on Mondays from 10am-11am in the Neill Lecture Theatre in Trinity Long Room Hub. 

Please indicate if you have any access requirements, such as ISL/English interpreting, so that we can facilitate you in attending this event. Contact:

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