A strange thing happened last year. In my despicable-but-traditional Best of 2013 run-down I ended up wanting to include quite a few things that I hadn't actually left the house to see. Some were shows from the Royal Court's excellent
Before these, there was the incredible event that was
Thanks to advances in technology, a whole new relationship between theatres and audiences is now possible. Granted, it feels new largely because the
Back in January,
Perhaps the most fascinating thing, though, and something that came through much more strongly in a subsequent Forced Entertainment Live-Stream, And On The Thousandth Night, was the community that grew up around the event. It was shorter than Quizoola (a mere six hours!), but during that epic, hallucinogenic period, Exeunt magazine offered a Durational Criticism blog, and
Fast-forward to last week, when, on Thursday and Friday, the experimental performance/games company Coney staged (if that's still the word) their new project, Better Than Life. The live premise is simple: you arrive at the "secret location", take part in a bit of audience participation and then meet Gavin, a man who has been granted the power to draw pictures of future events (a plot wittingly or unwittingly lifted from the wonky US science fiction TV show Heroes). The online premise is more complex: Coney's stated aim is to experiment with how they might be able to let people interact with the performance even if they are not physically present. To this end, online viewers could choose which camera they watched from, interact in the site's own chat facility and even control spotlights in the room itself.
And despite the odd technological hiccup, the hour's viewing provided intriguing glimpses of a number of possible futures. Of course, Coney made things harder for themselves by essentially crash-testing an entirely new platform at the same time as devising a completely new show. Perhaps developing this technology around an existing piece – their immensely popular A Small Town Anywhere, for example – might have been a better first step.
Obviously interactive theatre is different to a sit-down performance in somewhere like the Barbican (which, if I'm honest, is probably still my preference), but nonetheless, the idea that the passive viewer may very soon be handed the keys to the editing suite and be able to call their own shots is a seductive vision indeed.
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