Is Interactive Theatre a Fad?

Convener(s): Chris Gage, Sam Howey Nunn

Participants: (sorry if I spelt any names wrong)

William Latin, Nicky Petto, Matt Trueman, Tassos Stevens, John Challis, David Betz-Heinemann, Hyun-Ho Khang, Antonio Ferrera, Jamie Rocha Allen, Heather Taylor, Catherine Paskell 

(and many others besides- over 20 people a lot of the time)

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

What understanding do we bring to the group of the word ‘interactive’

Is it anything beyond the point at which the audience is sitting, completely passive (a sliding scale of all types of activity and interactivity on the part of the audience?

Everyone seems to be quite open minded and a big question mark around what meanings we all share. Lots of people listening.

The difficulties of balancing flexibility in a piece and still allowing for real drama and narrative

Giving choices but with clear rules found to be the most rewarding for the audience by some

People liked Etiquette- Rotozaza, precisely scripted but allowed personal interpretation.

Interactive theatre not necessarily a fad because its responsive to the current societal trend of control and choice over our experiences.

Point that there was a big wave in Canada 10 years ago so can it be called a fad?

How can we move beyond Punchdrunk- and give people more choices, take more risks with the outcome to the narrative

The audiences responsibility to find their own entertainment isn’t fair when they’re paying a £40 ticket

Can we say that sending an audience on a promenade journey is a narrative in itself

To what extent can we say that the work is just replication our daily interactions. The negative viewpoint of this kind of work is that its just aping an atomized society and the increasing amounts of choice without really responding or challenging it.

Interactivity has brought fluidity to the theatre form, it brings us responsibility to choose the right form for the message and the piece we want to make

Are people doing it just because it’s the trend of the moment; because it brings in non-traditional theatre audiences?  Is it in small towns? Regional?  Yes it is

Is it part of a larger movement of treating audiences more like humans and less like ‘the audience’

A point about how it can take 4 or 5 visits to an activity to know the conventions- maybe it will take that long for audiences to this type of theatre to know what to do with it

Shunt shows can be annoying when the performers appear to hold the code and the knowledge and the audience feels like they need more rules.

A responsibility we all have to treat the audience with care and give them choices that they understand

Rabbit holes vs. contracting the audience. Ie. The excitement of the mystery vs. Letting the audience know what they can expect

The people that enjoy this kind of work can often be non traditional theatre going audiences- more playful, not into the high brow

A lot of the more successful types of this work offer a resolution through a collective experience (often at the end) 

Do we need more rules?  Some people thought not, others thought that it was more about a sharing of understanding of things that work and things that don’t

Will it last?  Maybe only as a response to the time (eg Britpop), because its what we need right now.  Does that matter or make us any less valid.  Is the question more are we going to be adopted by the mainstream?  Are UK audiences ready for this kind of work

Canada- Its been happening for years (Tony and Tinas wedding Off Broadway)  and various others (Haircuts by Children) Public in Canada are au fait with this kind of work and maybe the more experimental companies have less work to do marketing and finding audiences for their interactive work 

How to make meaning in interactive theatre its not just about ‘we’re all performers now’. Its about the audience’s interpretation at different levels

Punchdrunks work is essentially a physical, architectural representation of what goes on in the audiences heads during a conventional show. People think with their feet.  But neither Punchdrunk or a conventional show acknowledges the audience in the room.

Do we want a shorthand to describe the work/describe what we mean by interactive (levels of interaction that we expect from the audience).  Possibly not because you end up with 7 different jargon words for something.

This doesn’t seem to be a fad, people are interested in building a useful vocabulary, about sharing understandings and making connections between all the different routes interactive theatre can go.  Theres a forum for these discussions via Scratch Interact and the quarterly scratch night discussions we’ll be having there


We all had a 30 second think about what we call this kind of theatre.  Here’s the list:

  • A theatre of active audiences
  • A theatre of performing audiences
  • Promenade and interactive
  • Interactive
  • An experience that you engage with (all jargon alienates, need to just describe it)
  • Live and active
  • Experiential
  • Immersive experience
  • Event/disruption
  • Adventures, play
  • Live interactive cross-platform (for the Funders!)
  • Playing audience
  • Interactive theatre
  • Immersive, journey, interactive
  • Immersive, responsive theatre
  • Intimate theatre
  • Audience makes the work, actors help them make it
  • Inclusive, involvement