The ‘social contract of the theatre seat’

‘What happens when you remove the typical social contract of the theatre seat? We invited the audience to walk in our oppressive world and they wanted to change it. The audience’s acts of touching and speaking, grabbing and yelling were both revelatory and deeply disturbing. Were they assholes or heroes?’

via Immersion, Coercion, and Mutiny: How do we set rules for the audience? | HowlRound.



‘Given that most participants begin the experience before other audience members have exited, there is a certain unstoppability to the entire undertaking once the first audience members meet the first performer. Where can we hide flexible, connective, and responsive tissue in this piece? How do we park someone, or rush someone, without them ever knowing we are doing it?’

via Creating and Managing a Deep Structure and a Responsive Surface | HowlRound.

Follow the link to a detailed, useful insight into immersive theatre/experience making.


‘the strange thing’

‘I don’t trust people easily. However, in a Punchdrunk show I have no problem putting my complete trust into a (most of the time) complete stranger. I don’t know most of the performers in the show and yet I’ve let them blindfold me, take me into pitch black rooms, force feed me oranges (don’t ask) and I’ve drunk whatever they have handed me without asking what exactly I was about to swallow. It’s the strange thing a Punchdrunk show will do to me. I become obedient in a way but it also sets me free.’

via Punchdrunk — live, love and eat cupcakes.


“In an immersive theatre production, the audience in some way plays a role, whether that is the role of witness or the role of an actual character. They may be allowed to roam and explore the performance space as the performance happens around them, allowing them to decide what they see and what they skip.”

via The Space » What is Immersive Theatre?.

This description highlights, for me, one of the central tensions that exists between the way we often talk about immersive theatre and the way it is actually experienced. In many cases (possibly most cases) an audience member does not decide “what they see or what they skip” because they do not  have access to sufficient information to be able to make that choice. Certainly this is the case for many first-time visitors to an immersive theatre production such as Sleep No More. In other cases an audience member may have the information about the full range of choices but lack the ability or opportunity to access them for reasons that are outside of their control.

‘what they see and what they skip’


‘In a video game, having an impassible wall around the town makes it clear where the action is to take place, but hardly enhances the sense that this town exists in a real world. But if you remove the wall and let players roam the countryside as well, you create a situation where you must decide where to stop creating the world, since it cannot be infinite. A boundary must still be created. Perhaps a river? A mountain range? A chasm? Even when creating an immersive experience with an ambiguous “edge”, participants still need a way to know, for sure, where the experience truly ends.’

via Ten Things We’ve Learned About Immersive Design — Medium (Foma Labs).

This point about the need for an “edge” (however ambiguous) is really interesting to me. What happens when the audiences / participants redraw where that edge is?

One, fairly literal, example I can think of are players who find and “exploit” the environment of video games in order to play the game in unintended ways (e.g. by manoveuring themselves off of the playable map in order to bypass a difficult encounter – see: S.A.B.E.R 2 Warsat Cheese. Easy Warsat Capture).

However, in addition to, “pushing” those boundaries (or moving yourself beyond them temporarily) audiences/participants might also attempt to redraw the edge “inside” the designer intended edge.

The ambiguous edge