1:Many

This morning I was reading the No Pro post about the opening weekend of the 2015 Without Walls festival (WoW) and was taken-aback to encounter notes about a solo immersive work.

‘This is what open-frame solo shows should be like.’

via A Weekend to be WOWed.

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.’

via La Jolla Playhouse.

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.

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