For last Friday’s Lunchtime Talk, Studio residents Mercurial Wrestler (creative producers Becca Gill and Jay Kerry) came in to give us an insight into their top-secret new project, Magna Mysteria.

Becca and Jay joined the Studio in 2010, when they developed the interactive theatre experience The Magician’s Desk, which used pervasive media devices such as sensors and projections to recreate the effects of Victorian-era magic tricks and immerse the audience in a narrative advanced through exploration of the eponymous desk.

Funded by Arts Council England and commissioned by Bristol City Council's Neighbourhood Arts Team and Bristol Old Vic Ferment, Magna Mysteria is Mercurial Wrestler’s follow-up to The Magician’s Desk, which seeks to expand the sense of wonder that project created beyond the confines of a single location (with multiple site-specific performances and installations) and into people’s everyday lives via social media, culminating in an extravaganza performance at next year’s Mayfest.

In order to help maintain the sense of mystique that magical productions require, Jay first asked that everyone in attendance sign an “Official Secrecy Act in Relation to The Magician’s Code”, confirming our agreement not to divulge any of the arcane information that they were about to share with us. Becca explained that it is an important part of this project that the audience should be led to suspend their disbelief as much as possible; to believe in and feel emotionally connected to the story.

Starting from the initial idea of translating The Magician’s Desk to a larger format, Becca and Jay have decided to weave a much grander narrative for this project, with ticket holding audience members being drawn into a series of public and private site-specific experiences that will unravel a tale that the producers have been developing alongside writer Tim X Atack. Their aim is to produce a story that can also be partially disseminated via various social media channels and that will take on a life of its own, making it accessible to the public at large.

To this end, Becca and Jay have been recruiting a marketing team (including a Student Media team from UWE) who will be tasked with spreading the story in traditional media and online, providing supplementary material to the more involved and intimate episodes encountered by the core audience.

As with The Magician’s Desk, they will be making use of various pervasive media technologies, from projection mapping to RFID tags (avoiding the use of screens), to atmospherically bring environments to life; with city-wide exploration triggering further engagement with the piece. However, finding the appropriate methods for initiating audience participation without breaking the spell of the narrative is a particular challenge Mercurial Wrestler will be facing with this piece and will require the management of a delicate balance of compulsion, persuasion and perhaps some smoke and mirrors.

Lunchtime Talks are an ongoing series of presentations and discussions by Studio residents and associates. They take place at 13:00 on Fridays and are free and open to everybody who’s interested in what we do. For the full programme of talks, please visit: