Top 5 Comments From Our Audience
and what we learned from them
Nothing will ever beat my favourite comment from the first Alchemical Door. “Well, it’s not my first apocalypse,” we were informed by an audience member, before they stormed out of the room into the suggested apocalypse outside. However, we had some very interesting feedback which opened up our eyes to new things.
“I want them to poke me” – Touch is important to some people.
Only two out of seven of our pieces involved physical contact between audience and actor. It seems to be something some audience members really crave when they come to see immersive theatre. Lark Ascending was popular with the touchy-feely audience as they got to become dead bodies in a mortuary and be washed, brushed and painted by the two embalmers.
“A little tear in me eye” – Less can be more emotional.
Voice was more of an installation piece than an immersive one, but it had a deep emotional affect on audience members who all seemed a little shell shocked when they came out. They sat and listened to stories about HIV, blindfolded and holding an actors hand. The immersive elements served only to give a three dimension feeling to the material but it was very effective. We used voice recordings from actors all over the world to give it a multi-cultural feel, so we send a big thank you to Andrew Oakes in New York and Richard Durning in Dublin for their overseas contributions.
“Was I the only one hearing that?” – Group choices versus individual choices.
All seven writers included an audio component. As the director I chose between using headphones or speakers for each piece. The most interesting difficulty the headphones brought up was that people generally assumed that everyone was hearing the same thing. As a consequence, they didn’t act independently. In Burnt Out the audience were divided into two groups to hear two different stories at the AA meeting. However, two people were chosen to hear something special. The people with unique stories were the ones encouraged to act and to lead the ending. However, no one did anything. Audience members we talked to afterwards assumed that everyone was being encouraged to do the same thing, and when no one else moved they felt that the group had made a choice to not act. So half way through the run we changed it and had one story play for everyone, which resulted in a more dynamic ending. I think we discovered that this balance between the personal or the group choice needs to be clear in immersive theatre. Hello Operator actually used this assumption to the shows advantage. The audience thought that everyone was listening in on the same things, when actually half of them were given secret instructions to overthrow the others. Good fun!
“I should have stopped her” – Giving the audience more power.
Both Misplaced and Hello Operator involved one actor murdering the other at the end. A few audiences saw the end coming but did not take it on themselves to stop the tragedy. This inaction happens when it is not clear that the audience can step in. A few people came out the show lamenting that they didn’t act. However, this inaction wasn’t really surprising; audience members always want to see the worst that can happen. When given the choice between life and death (in theatre), people chose death 99% of the time this weekend.
“They took my wine away” – Making everything part of the experience.
Burnt Out was set at an AA meeting. On one of the nights, when audiences were drinking between shows, the actor confiscated their wine before bringing them into the meeting. This resulted in a complaint from the audience to another actor that “they took my wine away.” This led to a new opening for the show. “In many ways” says Graham, “We are all here because someone took our wine away. I am Graham and I am an alcoholic”. This improvisation with the audience is always what makes it feel like a real immersive event. The hardest thing in them is the balance between chaos and control. Glitch had opportunities written in for audience and actor improvisation. However, it rather ambitiously tried to combine pre-recorded dialogue with improvisation which, it turns out, is very difficult to execute in real time smoothly. Most people thought the show had broken when actually we were just waiting on their response or for someone else to stop listening to their own inner monologue. It was also the only piece to use ImmerCity’s fabulous new audio set up where we can send 12 unique feeds to 12 different audience members.