Working there with Homi Bhabha, Jacques Derrida, bell hooks, Zaha Hadid, Patti and Mark E Smith, and nightly, feisty, intellectually demanding audiences, I developed an appetite for public engagement, radical inclusion and argument that has remained with me since.
With my colleagues and with support from the research grants office we have been successful in securing an AHRC Creative Fellowship with the artist and theatre maker Gregg Whelan who will work with us from until Browser does not support script. We deliberately provide communal spaces, such as the Manderley Bar in Sleep No More , to enable people to re-engage with their party either during or after the show, to swap stories and experiences.
We take the level of interest in our work as a huge compliment, and whilst some audience members do share secrets about the show online, the majority are mindful of others and want to preserve the magic. Borriello: In your performances, audience members are required to wear a white mask at all times.
Through the use of a wide range of mask types and techniques, we will identify and practice a variety of methods for performance and character creation. Finnegan, Ruth Russell, Patrick He argued for a shift in teaching theatre studies towards "performance"—as a "broad spectrum" or "continuum" of actions; a call for a wider curriculum to take account of ritual and societal contexts. The "performative turn" is yet another "moment"—in addition to the to "cultural", "linguistic", "visual", "embodiment" and other "turns" that have occurred in the last twenty-five or more years. A number of internationally known British filmmakers using forms of "realism" in their films have become established in the last thirty years—sometimes engaging "real people" as actors and employing improvisation techniques to address social conditions and issues affecting individual lives e.
This recurring feature encourages them to have the freedom to act differently from who they are in day-to-day life. Could you explain how you came up with the idea of the mask and say whether it allows you to set limits on the audience extended agency and freedom? Punchdrunk: Not all Punchdrunk productions use masks. When they are used for shows such as Sleep No More in New York and Shanghai , they offer both anonymity and empowerment. We want to keep audience members to feel as safe and secure as if they were seated in a traditional theatre, whilst allowing them to be mobile and giving them an element of choice.
This would not be possible unless we empowered our performers. Our audiences remain voyeurs; they cannot manipulate the trajectory of the show. Borriello: The term immersive, which was brought into theatre at the beginning of this century, comes from the world of computer technology or, better, from its capacity to allow the immersion of a subject in a virtual digital world. In Believe Your Eyes , you pushed further the line between virtual and real, by employing the advanced technology of Samsung Gear VR and involving a real actress.
Could you talk about this experimental work and explain its relationship with your previous performances? In Kabeiroi , for example, one of your last productions, based on fragments of a lost play by Aeschylus and designed for an audience of two, you challenged further your spectators to a six-hour performance-tour across London. However, also in Immersive Theatre, some strategies could become predictable and hackneyed, turning the excited and enthusiastic spectator into a passive and bored one.
In Kabeiroi , and generally in your work, how do you avoid this risk without falling into the trap of excitement at all cost?
Punchdrunk: We have a responsibility to create theatre that empowers audiences, boosting adrenaline and sensory exposure. Predictability is the antidote to that. Banks, Marcus Visual methods in social research. Rethinking visual anthropology. London: Yale University Press.
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