The Virtual Reality gaming world and the small screen are set to collide on April 2nd when Channel 4 premieres the innovative thriller hybrid live-action and state of the art animation Kiss Me First. Judging from the first episode alone, Channel 4’s ability to connect with younger audiences hasn’t faltered. It stunningly delves into the minds of troubled, lonely teens just looking for a world in which they can leave their troubles behind and be someone else.
The six-part drama is adapted by Skins co-creator Bryan Elsley and is based on Lottie Moggach’s debut novel of the same name – in which she used the world of social media and chat rooms and not VR gaming – the drama flits between the animated Virtual Reality and real worlds. The story focuses on the timid yet inquiring Leila, played by rising star Tallulah Haddon. She spends her time escaping the loneliness of her world by entering her own VR world where she has friends and competes against them in combat. The importance of her escape is made ever more urgent by the passing of her mother and the realisation she now has to fend for herself.
Leila, whose avatar is named Shadowfax, stumbles across a secret paradise, hidden on the edges of her favourite game after being enticed by the mysterious, vivacious and insatiable Tess (Simona Brown). When Leila’s worlds collide after meeting Tess in real-life, she embarks on a dark and inquisitive journey into this new digital Eden; A journey that could be a lot more than she bargained for.
As you would expect from the first episode, it lays the foundation of the story with intrigue as characters are carefully laid out; leaving room for your appetite to develop for more as the plot line sucks you. Haddon’s Leila is the centrepiece of this story but there are a host of others that make up both her worlds. In order to survive, Leila not only secures herself a part-time job in a Turkish cafe but she also takes on a lodger – mainly to be able to pay for her credits for the game – an aspiring out-of-work actor, Jonty (Matthew Aubrey) takes on the room and brings a light air of comedy to loosen up the darker tone. Those surrounding her in her virtual world still remain a bit of mystery.
Already being compared to a teen version of Black Mirror, Kiss Me First had already embarked on a clever promotional stint for the show. Creating a website for a device featured in the show, the Azanaband (a virtual reality neckband that amplifies the senses: happiness, fear and pain) was marketed to the public before it was revealed it was a publicity stunt. The innovative approach to its publicity is only just the beginning of what this groundbreaking humanistic show has on offer.
Kiss Me First will premiere on Channel 4 on Monday, April 2 at 10pm and will be available on Netflix to those outside of the UK.