‘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?’
‘With an air of bemused contempt, getting lost in his mad pantomime, Bowie contorted himself, moving in exaggerated, jerky gestures; he acted as if the audience didn’t exist, that he was playing to a mirror, then he would suddenly acknowledge the crowd with leers and half-smiles.’
The production was The Bitter Game by Keith Wallace:
‘The Bitter Game blends verse, prose and “shit-talkin,'” into a stirring commentary that begs the question, what does it mean to survive while Black in America? This solo work, ripe with pain, poetry and laughter, examines the relationship between a young man and his mother as each struggles to protect one another from that which seems inevitable. The Bitter Game explores the subtle and often unrecognized effects of racism, the question of police agency, and the value of Black lives in this country.’
Why was I taken-aback by this? Because I hadn’t realised that, even though I’ve resisted adopting any firm definition of what immersive theatre is or could be, and even though I’ve very recently been reading about festivals and events that include multiple interactive (and potentially immersive) performances I had nonetheless adopted a default picture of immersive theatre in my mind. That picture always, I now realise, included multiple performers. Reading about events that included multiple 1:1 type performances such as Domicile hadn’t triggered the realisation because, I think, I was still reading it as involving groups of, rather than solo, performers. The description of The Bitter Game bumped right up against that, particularly because of the 1:Many performance to audience relationship it involved. So useful to be reminded that, as much as you try to avoid it, it’s very easy for your thinking (even subconsciously) to slip towards the creation of lazy models rather than thinking about each specific instance as an individual instance.
It’s also really useful because it highlights that it is possible to create a successful immersive work without needing a cast of thousands.
‘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.’
Human Animal Exchange’s They Saw a Thylacine is touring Australia (including Tasmania) in 2016. The production has been nominated for many, many awards and the trailer (below) is quite charming. Dates and details here.
‘Somehow we don’t feel the same way about someone on stage: Performers are usually rewarded for their bravery, applauded for making themselves vulnerable. Bloggers, on the other hand, are seemingly hobbyists and amateurs, even if they’re getting paid for their work.’