Chloe Mashiter, 25 January 2015

Who was the session called by?

Chloe Mashiter

Who attended the session?

Chris Hallam

Fiona Wright

Kate O'Connor

Nick Grossenbaum

Liberty Bliss

Jess Mabel Jones

Jess Thom

Angeliki Georgokosta

Priyanka Patel

Stanley Walton

Vanessa Hemmings

The session was focused on how to create shows (for more traditional spaces/set-ups)

which welcome audience members who are turned off by the idea of watching a show

whilst sitting silently - who would rather have the freedom to respond to the

performance as they find comfortable and instinctive. (The session also discussed

those audiences who are - for example - neurologically incapable of maintaining the

silence/stillness/etc that seems to be the expected behaviour in a lot of


Thoughts from the session:

- Drop the phrase ‘relaxed performances’ in favour of ‘extra live’ - emphasise the

wonderful things that are gained from these performances. We don't lose out/miss out

on anything onstage, we instead gain an amazing atmosphere. (Using the phrase

‘extra live’ for the rest of the report.)

- We should trust/have confidence in audiences to still engage with the performances.

If they're there, they want to see the work.

- Flipside to this: trust/have confidence in our work being interesting enough to hold

people's attention. (Are some people scared of extra live shows because of the

freedom the audience have to respond honestly if it's not


- The conventions, whatever they are, need to be made clear to everyone - performers

and audiences. If people know what to expect, they'll be a lot more relaxed about what

happens (no misplaced worries about how activity in the audience is affecting the

performers/other audience members/etc).

- It was noted that this behaviour - sit down, be still, be silent - is relatively atypical

when you look at the history of theatre. This is not the norm, it's simply what's become

adopted/prominent over the past few decades.

- Having the house lights up on an audience makes a huge difference, rather than

putting them in the dark and hiding them away.

- Important question: what work particularly lends itself to extra live performances (or

playwrights/plays/etc)? What do we do if some work/playwrights/plays don't seem to

work with extra live performances, considering that for some extra live performances

are essential in making theatre accessible to them?

- Matter of how you describe extra live shows to audiences - for instance, so that

people aren't put off by a perceived participatory element or misunderstand who the

performance is really for.

- Came up a lot how extra live performance felt sidelined to matinees, occasional

performances etc, and people perceived them as for a specific group, when actually

they can be enjoyed by all. Anecdote mentioned of someone who tweeted regret upon

discovering the performance they were at was a relaxed performance, but by the end

of the night were determined to only ever go to those from now on because the

experience was so much richer for them.

- Important to acknowledge that there are people who do enjoy sitting quietly and

watching shows, that there are a variety of audiences to cater to and that this is a

spectrum - there aren't ‘extra live’ shows and ‘not-extra live’ shows, but a range of

atmospheres/levels of freedom/etc that can be created by a show for its audience.

Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.

- “The gift of interruption” - the brilliant moments and experiences that extra live shows

can bring. We should promote the contribution that the audience can make to these


- The more people talk about, blog about, share information about extra live

performances, the better - people won't come to them if they don't know what they are,

nor will they put them on.

- Someone mentioned their experience of touring rurally and having audiences that

were chatty/vocal by default, because there was a community that the show was

entering. The audience felt an ownership of the space and therefore more comfortable

and more active/responsive in it. Question from this - do major theatre spaces carry

more pre-conceptions on what etiquette you should have? Is one significant step

staging work in non-theatre spaces that audiences feel they own more?

- We do still need to think about what works creatively (also thinking where our work/a

performance/a production sits on the spectrum of potential audience conventions) -

what conventions are the most productive/apt?

- Extra live shows don't have to be hyper-stimulating/bright/etc - continuing thought of

trusting audiences. If the moment demands that they listen/is important enough, they'll


- Shared experiences of shows which explicitly demanded silence (these happened to

be promenade shows or similar), which immediately made us as audience members

feel patronised. Also excludes those who cannot be silent.

- Performance for/within/by the deaf community was raised, since there's such a

different set of audience conventions and sound onstage/in the audience can work so


- An important step is simply acknowledging difference when making shows - the

different people who might see it, the different responses audiences can have, rather

than making shows with a default silent audience in mind.

- Also important to acknowledge that there's a curve many people go through when

becoming comfortable in a theatre - won't necessarily happen immediately. Something

we as makers/hosts/etc can do is make it as easy as possible for audience members

to make any checks they made need to before attending a performance.

- Question was raised of how we prepare actors who may not have been trained for

this kind of performance (though we could simply use clowns/storytellers/street

performers). Needs to be movement on both sides - actors won't be trained for this

kind of performance if such performances aren't happening. (However, exactly how

much some actors need, beyond simply being told about particular audience members

or audiences, seems to vary with the individual and many may need next to no prep.)

What seemed to be really significant in this session was how it's a case of simply

doing - putting shows in front of such audiences and welcoming such audiences to

shows. We don't need any radical overhauling of how shows are necessarily directed,

made, envisaged. It's a case of making the show and then making sure to welcome

and acknowledge the audience. We don't need to necessarily change the kind of work

we're making, so long as it's interesting, engaging and entertaining (which it hopefully

is anyway!).


accessibility, directors, Relaxed performances, Relaxed Performances, relaxed

performances, actors, Directors, Actors