Immersive theatre in 2018 comprises a global field of practices that have been fuelled by popular consumer demand. The magnitude of this demand has enabled many theatre companies to create work that might not otherwise be created thanks to the prospect of substantive commercial revenue. However, what is at stake in looking to satisfy an emerging set of consumer expectations? How might these expectations be affecting the kinds of body audiences encounter in immersive performance, and how they engage with them? In what ways are they affecting the health of the sector, and those who work in it? And what opportunities might these expectations also afford?
This research event will survey a range of current strategies for immersing audiences in contemporary theatre and performance, whilst mapping ethical, economic and political issues that have dominated international debate in 2018, examining what these issues have to offer to how we think about and understand immersive theatre today. This is a year that has seen Brett Kavanaugh confirmed as the 114th Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. It is a year that marks ten years since the 2008 financial crash, and that finds the UK government prepare, or perhaps failing to prepare, for an overhaul of legislation linked to British trade with the European Union and workplace protections. 2018 is also a year that saw the publication of several journalistic articles documenting examples of sexual assault in immersive theatre, and that found a relatively young immersive theatre company declaring bankruptcy after the magnitude if its debt proved untenable. At the same time, does this not make it all the more important to discuss an ethics of care and trust? And should we not take seriously attempts to inform or reimagine economies and labour relations through participatory engagement when the stability and security of each is at risk?
Across two panels and four academic papers, ‘Performing Audiences: Immersive Theatre in 2018’ looks to chart the state of the immersive sector today by examining some of the most urgent challenges it faces: those linked to the very sources of its appeal as much as its ethics and sustainability.
Panel 1: Immersion, ethics and aesthetics
Dr. Rose Biggin (independent scholar), "Immersive theatre and eroticism"
Meg Cunningham (GSA, University of Surrey), “Immersion in scenographic storyworlds”
Panel 2: Immersion, politics and economics
Dr. Adam Alston (GSA, University of Surrey), “Immersive theatre and commercial risk”
Will Osmond (GSA, University of Surrey), “The distribution of labour in live action role plays”
Wine will be served. A campus map can be found here: https://www.surrey.ac.uk/sites/default/files/2018-10/campus-map-2018.pdf
Jessica Guise in the Immersive Ensemble and The Guild of Misrule's The Great Gatsby (2016-)