I was rather sceptical about the idea of a show you watch alone on an iPad. Surely you could do that at home, without all the hassle of hefting a suitcase to the festival? But Alma Mater – a strange and spellbinding “filmic journey for one” exploring the world of a child’s imagination – provides an intimate experience that would not have nearly the same power in any other format.
Enclosed in a white, purpose-built kid’s bedroom that reproduces the minimal set of the short film, you follow the wordless instructions of on-screen performers as they motion to the camera, indicating for you to sit or turn, so that your perspective is always the same as the camera’s. The effect of the piece, by experimental Glasgow company Fish and Game, is oddly unsettling, a blurring of film and reality. On screen, you see characters entering the room, or (virtually) sitting beside you, or flying out of the window towards a forest. At one point, I even found myself looking round the iPad, expecting to see these beautiful, ethereal children in the room beside me.