Last week I had the pleasure of some mentoring sessions with Chloe Mashiter and Tom Black to develop Come Bargain With Uncanny Things, during which the topic of different forms of interactive theatre came up.
All forms of performance have their own ideal audience behaviour. Contrast, say, the crowd after midnight in a drag bar and at evensong a few hours earlier.
Doing interactive opera-ritual means it’s quite unlikely anyone will know exactly what to expect, so I’m going to try and write it out (as much to focus my mind as anything else).
Within interactive theatre it’s broadly a situation room: the audience come in to solve a set of problems; how they do so determines what happens via an adaptive narrative.
It doesn’t directly do much to give its audience individual characters, though they might pick up goals and attitudes from the world around them.
While I’d be interested in what would happen to Come Bargain if it was the audience who came with their strange requests within the community, but right now that’s not what we’re doing.
Within opera, it’s closer to ritualistic work like Akhenaten; work that strives for a sense of time passing together, rather than immediate drama, tragedy or comedy. The enjoyment of the experience comes from being part of a whole, rather than the melodrama (used technically, not pejoratively) of some operas. I drew as much from the ideas of noh as opera.
How is it doing that?
Partly, it’s a much slower and smaller-scale situation room than many interactive shows you might have encountered. Time is enough, rather than rushing.
Partly, by improvising music. It means are singers are always in quite an intimate space, listening and responding to one another and the world.
And partly by trying to bring to life a world that requires magic to be alive, with stuff in the shadows and among the rafters.
The audience will come in, and be guided into being a part of that by our delightful cast. Once there, they’ll decide what they are as a group, and I think that’s the part of interactive theatre that I’m most trying to bring out with the team.
I think it might work. We’ll see.
But we shall see once the audience arrive. We’re trying something quite new.