No Screens. No Distractions. No Fourth Wall. Real Escape. Welcome to immersive theatre, performance art’s latest trend.
If you’ve ever wanted to experience living inside a movie, or wished you could be the one to solve crimes, discover mysteries and unfold captivating stories, theatre’s latest trend is offering you just that. Immersive theatre (or interactive theatre as it’s otherwise known) is an adventure like no other. You’re the star of the show, encouraged to interact with the cast and locations are often kept under wraps until 24 hours before “curtain time.” And once the show commences, you’ll find yourself stuck in a strange world where strange things keep happening, to you…
The idea behind the craze is bulldozing the “fourth wall” that traditionally separates audience from performers, both physically and verbally. Audience members are invited to become the characters in the performance and interact with other actors. Productions range from horror movies, to 1920’s-1940’s crime mysteries, to old children’s fairy tale’s, meaning there’s a whole load of weird to get involved in.
Despite the obvious differences to regular performances, there is still a beginning, middle and finale. Everyone is fed information, but the whole experience centres around perspective; each “audience” member will have a unique experience based on the same plot.
If you’re yet to be convinced, we rounded up five reasons to swap your regular cinema trip for an evening of immersive theatre:
In our digitised world, what better way to get offline and unplug from the world than immersing yourself in an alternate universe. Our collective Netflix addiction is proof that we’re constantly seeking entertainment that transports us, but immersive theatre offers escape without the downfalls of excessive screen time.
As important as your character will be, there will be others involved in the performance, whether it be actors or other attendees. Immersive and interactive theatre nourishes the soul by introducing you to people whom you can have a deep, affecting – even if partly scripted – interaction. It might be a slightly out-of-the-box way to meet and connect with people, but nothing breaks the ice like a medieval costume and some pre-written lines.
Defending the Kindergarten tree-house in a make-believe game of Kings and Queens is grudgingly in the past, replaced by the much more mundane version of grocery store aisles and gym sessions. If our sense of adventure has diminished, immersive theatre is here to resuscitate it, reminding even the most no-nonsense of us that the thrill of exploring a made up world can be utterly enchanting.
Unlike regular theatre, immersive theatre steps away from the stage and explores locations like abandoned warehouses, hidden basements, or public parks at midnight. It’s a chance to explore the overlooked corners of your city and be transported to unforeseen places where you can create fantastical memories.
Immersive theatre plays on the excitement of the unknown, keeping locations secret and the storyline to be uncovered only on the night. As we increasingly live our lives on the internet, accessing infinite amounts of content at our fingertips, it can be hard to truly scare audiences. Or to make them confused. Or overjoyed. But immersive theatre does just that, taking its audience on an emotional rollercoaster.
In a time where our eyes are constantly glued to our phones and computers, immersive theatre offers something more. The trend is proof that we’re longing to escape the all-consuming world of screens and dive into a more physically visceral world. But more than that, immersive theatre allows actors and creators to comment more powerfully on modern societal issues by getting up close and personal to its audience members.
Theatre artist Ryan Purcell sees immersive theatre as a product of performance’s changing role in society:
“…theatre artists are starting to interact with other aspects of society – economic issues, issues of diversity, a movement toward a more holistic kind of theatre.”
Convinced? If you’re keen to experience this growing trend, Underground Cinema hosts regular immersive theatre events across locations in Sydney and Melbourne. One of the company’s more recent events, titled Delirium, saw audiences put into a Neo-Noir world (think fedoras and overly long trench coats), as each individual became their own detective. What they uncovered remains a secret known only to those who took part. If you’re keen to find out, you’ll have to buy a ticket…
Could this be the future of theatre and Cinema? Or even the future of social interaction in a world of Pokemon Go, Virtual Reality and Escape Rooms? Let us know in the comments below!