Making theatre happen in gig/club environments – any ideas?

Convener(s): Alex Brown

Participants:, Lucy Oliver Harrison, Simon Pollard,Tamar Daly, Eleanor Heidingsfield

Plus others (please add your names)

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

Two broad types indentified: Theatre that is set in a club or pub

                                              Theatrical events that happen during a club/gig


What can theatre bring to a club atmosphere?



-A way to shape or focus the collective experience of the audience


What are the potential problems? 

-People can’t hear

-People get bored

-People are drunk

-Theatre will ‘get in the way’ of people connecting to the music and each other

-The ‘Massive Passive’ (also know as the Hanky Wankies) who don’t engage with the theatrical element of the evening


Interesting things to consider when working in club environments:

-What contract to do you want to establish with the audience

(eg how to do you ask them to interact with the event?)

-How do you engage with the space?

-What can we learn from the way the DJ’s interact with and shape atmosphere?

-The Song – shorter, driven towards the experience of closure. A good blueprint for theatrical ‘excerpts’ which can be presented

-Collective Joy – the connection to ritual worship (see Barbara Ehrinwright’s (quite possibly spelt wrong!) book ‘Collective Joy – dancing in the streets’)

-Durational work allows people to drop in and out

-World Creation - How can we change peoples worlds when they enter and exit the space?



Active or Passive?

-Interaction and character walkabout ask for an active audience

- Music/Visuals can be presented for people to ‘soak up’ in a passive way


What work to make and how?

-Curate an event that brings together artists from different disciplines

-Encourage them to be flexible and adapt to the audience and space as they find it

-What will the transitions between acts be like?

-What ties the experience together for the audience?


Work / Places that were mentioned and discussed

Duckie – performance club night at RVT (Royal Vauxhall Tavern)

Donkey Show – Midsummer Night’s Dream set in a club

Punchdrunk’s Masque of the Red Death – immersive theatrical experience that filled the entire BAC building

Nabokov Arts Club – new writing, bands and dj’s all in the same event

Secret Cinema – screenings of films in secret locations with themed performance surrounding the film screening

August Osage County – Musical at the National that had the audience up and dancing

Fela! – Musical at the National that uses the format of live gig to tell the story of musician Fela Kuti

David Byrne/ Robert Wilson collaboration (didn’t write the name down!)

Theatre Royal Stratford East – big audience reactions and involvement in the material

Late 80’s rave culture – phone the party line to find the location

Santa Con – lots of Santa’s singing to the public

Flash Mobs

ARG – Alternate Reality Games Live games involving film, internet and real action. A treasure hunt that leads the audience into a game that is played across several performance platforms. The recent Batman movie launch had one, and there was also..

The Accomplice – Menier Chocoloate Factory show that had people searching all around the South Bank in a treasure hunt style game. There was also…

Hide and Seek’s Sherlock Holmes  event

Torture Garden – The ‘tip of the ice berg’ of fetish parties. People recreate themselves and live a fantasy life. Of interest to anyone looking to work in club/gig enviroments

La Fura de las Baus – Big, mad performance events on a large scale. Trance music soundtrack, big visual events , chainsaws!

Fresh from the Oven – Brighton based performance events, improvised element to the work that morphs the fit the space and audience as the performers find it

Temple Works – venue in Leeds that has had a lot of interesting events pass through

176 Chalk Farm – worth a look