Posted on Wed 20 Mar 2019
Breaking the making rhythm
A few thoughts from my time on Watershed’s Winter Residency programme.
My time on residency at the Watershed’s Pervasive Media Studio has been epic. I can’t speak highly enough of the Winter Residency programme. My work is often driven by ideas and form, and I’ve felt really lucky to find a space and a programme that gives you space to think and explore.
I think, especially in theatre, we are often trapped in a making rhythm that exists mainly because it has just been handed down that way to us for about sixty years. The idea of rehearsing and getting things made in four to eight weeks can help you bring a vitality and liveness to scripted work, and is something I’ve enjoyed and intend to do more of, but at the same time can put a stop gap on pushing your practice.
Coming out of making The Believers Are But Brothers I was sure I wanted to spend a little bit of time developing the emerging pervasive strands of my theatre practice. Through that project I had become interested in what immersion and pervasiveness in the context of everyday technology, and specifically, had become interested in the way that the first generation of Alternate Reality Games had, like the surrealists always aimed to do, blurred the distinction between art and every day life.
I came to the studio with an almost entirely headline grasp of this kind of work. Luckily my mentor Hazel, had worked on a whole selection of the biggest of these ARGs. Having spent some time playing some more contemporary games, reading about the first generation in more detail and researching the mechanics of interactivity and games design I’ve got a much more practical and nuanced grasp of the work I’m trying to make.
I think we’re at a really exciting moment for interaction between theatre and digital art forms, but far too much of the theatre side of this engagement remains limited in a register that reminds me of the original American fair ground Kinemas. The work often focuses on the whizz bang of a piece of a tech, rather than possibilities of story telling, audience/performer complicity and theatricality of new mediums. For me the fundamental bit of learning was grasping that telling stories with everyday technology, and post ARG games design is at its best profoundly theatrical: its about clear and clean offers to an audience in a context that elevates and extends there interaction. Theatre and a certain kind of pervasive game pretty much share DNA.