Immersive Theatre

Between Panoramas And VR: What Does It Mean To Be Immersed?

Interview with Dr. Robin Curtis, professor of media studies at Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg who puts herself between theory and practice with expertise both in filmmaking and in researching the history of immersion. How did you start to become more immersed in the concept and history of immersion? I was already teaching at the university when I got the opportunity to start a PhD. I was interested in autobiographical film and how it constructs a particular fictional self but claims that it is factual. It makes claims about the world and history, about a certain physical place inside history, and invites the viewer...

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Life Isn’t a Beach in “Einstein in the Carpark”

If the avant garde director Robert Wilson died and went to purgatory, Einstein in the Carpark is probably where he’d end up. Part performance, part installation, part misshapen creature stitched together from both forms, this piece by Liu Xiaoyi and his company Emergency Stairs occupies the entire B2-level carpark of the Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay, the first site-specific piece to be commissioned for the arts centre’s Huayi – Chinese Festival of Arts. Einstein in the Carpark is an explicit nod to Wilson’s groundbreaking “abstract opera” Einstein on the Beach, a 4½-hour piece featuring composer Philip Glass’ pulsating,...

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Giudizio Universale. Michelangelo And The Secrets Of The Sistine Chapel

Over the course of time, the great aesthetic impact of the Sistine Chapel has been testified to with many episodes of admiration; Michelangelo’s masterpiece can also be considered a source of inspiration for new artistic products, offering something worthy of meditation for future generations. Just one example: in the 1910s, the actress Eleonora Duse wanted to realize a silent movie about this very special place in Rome; it was an avant-garde project with high technical complexity but conceived as a good opportunity to improve the cultural level of the audience. Unfortunately, it remained only a dream, but its novelty...

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Immersive “Julius Caesar” at The Bridge Theatre

“Two things only the people anxiously desire—bread and circuses,” said the Roman poet Juvenal. He was describing the decline of the Roman Empire, but the phrase seems wholly appropriate as a description of current affairs. Tax cuts are bread; Donald Trump’s antics are a circus. All over the world, populism strides the national stages, and politicians manipulate the people with false promises and fake news. Meanwhile, intellectuals scratch their heads and blunder into the wrong actions. Yes, this is the world of William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, as seen by this venue’s artistic director, Nicholas Hytner, in a thrilling and stimulating...

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“Dutchman” At Secret Theater

One of New York City’s most dynamic young theater companies makes a bold addition to its repertoire with its engaging production of Dutchman, Amiri Baraka’s provocative chamber drama. Dutchman is a companion piece to Albee’s The Zoo Story, another mid-1960’s urban-set dialogue between two strangers featuring a tragic ending. In this case, a Central Park bench is switched out for an MTA subway car. Where Albee’s characters are both white males, Baraka’s play features an African-American man and a white woman. A play so clearly aligned with the turbulent Civil Rights era requires contextural reconsideration; that’s precisely what this...

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“Privacy:” The Impact Of The Digital Revolution On Private Life

Inspired by the Edward Snowden case, James Graham’s Privacy shows us the consequences of living life online where everything we share can be used by governments and corporations that monitor our information without being aware of it. Written by James Graham and Josie Rourke, it was launched in London in 2014, and then it was performed in New York in 2016, with Daniel Radcliffe in the leading role. Nowadays it is performing in Mexico City starring Diego Luna and Luis Gerardo Méndez, who alternate roles, along with eight actors on stage, in a magnificent multimedia production directed by Francisco Franco,...

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Looking Within With “Attempts: Singapore”

Spoiler Alert: If you’re planning to experience the mystery and suspense of Attempts: Singapore, read only after you’ve attended the performance. “She is a terrorist, she is a cultist, she works for sex.” “Who is she?” Like a foggy recreation of a Black Mirror episode, Rei Poh’s Attempts: Singapore begins intriguingly with corporate conglomerate ARC reaching out to the audience for help. We are enrolled to assist in deciphering a databank that consists of fragmented memories of a mysterious woman named Anne, which have been found in ARC’s Artificial Intelligence system J.O.A.N. Inspired by Martin Crimp’s Attempts On Her Life, this promenade piece meshes a...

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“The Grift”: Theatre or Escape the Room?

Theatre as a concept is related to the idea of “play.” After all, scripts are plays and actors play roles. However, it is not often that these words are dissected to reach the idea of “game.” This is why, when arriving at the charming Town Hall Hotel for the site-specific, immersive, interactive production of The Grift, it was surprising to hear the hotel staff commend the play as a “very fun game.” Soon enough, the 50 audience members were given color bracelets that would divide them into different “teams.” This game-like audience division is not unheard of in immersive...

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“Unpermitted Whispers:” Reflections On The Originality Of “Hopscotch” Performance

Yuval Sharon was recently awarded a MacArthur Fellowship “genius grant” for his mobile opera Hopscotch, performed in 2015 in Los Angeles. But before Sharon’s car opera was even conceived, the Iranian environmental performance Unpermitted Whispers (Najvāhāy-e Biejāzeh) awed its passengers/spectators by taking them on a journey through the streets of downtown Tehran. The Iranian female director Azadeh Ganjeh created Unpermitted Whispers in 2010 for the Shakespeare Creative Workshops section of the 13th International Student Theatre Festival and won the top award for her unique and audacious approach in shifting the borders of theatrical space and intimacy. [1] She revived the show in December 2013 for twenty nights. Each evening, from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m., the group gave four performances of approximately 50 minutes each. The play is performed in a taxi that is carpooling a driver/actor, an actress, and three passengers/spectators who are simultaneously waiting and are waited on by the performance crew in a nearby café. An usher guides the three spectators...

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“The Jungle” at The Young Vic: New Immersive Docu-Drama

Refugees, it is said, have no nationality—they are all individuals. This new docu-drama, The Jungle, deftly put together by theatre-makers Joe Murphy and Joe Robertson, is a somber account of a couple of recent years of the great European migration crisis, and acts as a testament to the individuality and complexity of the refugee experience. As this co-production between Good Chance theatre company, the National, and the Young Vic opens, in an immersive production steered by directors Stephen Daldry and Justin Martin, it raises various troubling questions about this kind of theatre, most of which are addressed by the...

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Review: “An Italian Christmas Carol” Haunts Past And Future

Toronto, Ontario.  Mae Smith reviews DopoLavoroTeatrale (DLT)’s immersive An Italian Christmas Carol, an interactive theatrical experience for an audience of one person at a time: An Italian Christmas Carol is an immersive theatrical piece not to be missed, and one best understood by experiencing it. Drawing you into the grim reality of a newcomer’s struggle to find a home in a new country and then shaping this experience through the projection of their desires onto the single-person audience, DopoLavoroTeatrale (DLT) delivers a magical and melancholic trip into Christmas for one Italian Immigrant in Toronto. As a solo-audience member, you are invited to...

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Immersive Theatre On A Silver Platter: “The Hungry Hearts Supper Club”

Earlier this year, as a whimsical Valentine’s Week Special targeted the blissfully single rather than the cheerlessly coupled, the Delhi-based Crow, one of the country’s rare immersive theatre outfits, presented The Hungry Hearts Supper Club at Oddbird Theatre. It was a gastronomical experience that allowed diners to dive into a smoky forbidding world of mythical deviants and an outré cuisine replete with a sultry hostess (the Siren) and an Impish (quite literally) maître d’ who served up copious quantities of the “Cream of Nightmare” soup. The storytelling was typically interactive in nature, which could lead to quite unexpected turns of affairs—each...

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Theatre And Immersion: “You Enter Yourself Into This Space”

Immersion means experiencing. What does this mean for the theatre? Thomas Oberender, Artistic Director of the Berliner Festspiele, talks about his program focus “Immersion.” Mr. Oberender, the Berliner Festspiele has a new, multi-year program focus: “immersion.” What’s behind it? I hit upon the idea three years ago at an International Literature Festival workshop about the transfer of the material of novels to computer games. “Immersion” refers to an aesthetic principle that aims at the production of a particular form of immediacy, so to say at plunging into the subject instead of adopting an attitude of detached observation. A proven...

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“Witness For The Prosecution” at London County Hall

Some site-specific theatre feels like a really good fit. You could say, in this case, that it seems like poetic justice. Agatha Christie’s 1953 play, Witness For The Prosecution, used to be a rep standard, and now gets a compelling new production in the echoing surrounds of the Council Chamber at London County Hall, which is situated on the South Bank, next to Westminster Bridge, and was once the scene of Ken Livingstone’s leadership of the Greater London Council. The drama, which the Queen of Crime adapted from her own short story of the same name (originally published in 1933),...

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Sydney Festival Review: Beckett’s “All That Fall”

In the program notes to Pan Pan Theatre’s outstanding production of All That Fall at the Sydney Festival, critic Nicholas Johnson underlines Samuel Beckett’s well-known opposition to having All That Fall, a radio play written in 1956, presented on stage. He underlines how we need to get out of the cul de sacs of the stage history of works so as to imagine their present and future. Beckett’s concern with All That Fall related to the fact that he had specifically written it for the medium of radio: he did not feel it would be possible to adequately translate words...

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Foreign Radical: The Intimate Power of Interactivity

Please, take your laptops out of the suitcase. Liquids in a plastic bag. No belts. No shoes. Little by little, we have given up freedom, comfort, and some rights in exchange for security. Looking at the recent events, the terrorist threat, it seems reasonable. Trusting that someone is keeping us safe, we have gotten used to mindlessly going through security procedures. And yet, there is a sense of uneasiness every time you pass through a metal detector. You are being watched; you are being judged; you could be considered suspicious. Foreign Radical is a new interactive piece by the...

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Fuerza Bruta Re-Interprets a Night Out at The Theater

Since Argentinian physical theater troupe Fuerza Bruta burst onto the scene in Buenos Aires in 2005, some 5 million people in more than 30 countries have experienced its high-energy, postmodern productions, which are often tailored to wherever they’re staged. This time, the stage is Tokyo’s Stellar Ball theater, which is next to Shinagawa Station. And audiences there — who are better described as “spectators” — are being treated to the world-premiere run of Fuerza Bruta Wa! Wonder Japan Experience. Although the show has been fashioned for today’s Japan, creative director Diqui James says its inspiration goes way back. So,...

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Secret Cinema’s “Moulin Rouge”: The Bohemian Revolution in Immersive Format

At the core of Secret Cinema, there is the promise of daring to be different. Combining the realms of large cinema screenings, theatre and immersive spaces, they offer unique experiences surrounded by mystery. Most reviewers keep the secrecy as to not spoil the event for others, so the audience can only speculate what they are in for from a few videos here and there, and word of mouth accounts. Since 2007, they have dared to approach epic films like Star Wars, Dirty Dancing, Back to the Future, The Third Man, and this year, Moulin Rouge. Although their reputation may...

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Transmedia Storytelling in the Performing Arts, a New Grammar to be Learned: An Interview with Belén Santa-Olalla

Belén Santa-Olalla has a BA in Media Practice and Theory from Sussex University, Brighton. She studied audiovisual communication, drama and performance art, and was an assistant director for the former director of the National Theatre and the National Dramatic Centre in Spain where she founded her own theatre company, Stroke114. As she became interested in the intersection of technology and theatre, she learned about transmedia storytelling and, due to her interest in post-production software and other technology, ended up working with Robert Pratten at Transmedia Storyteller Limited ( in London. Now, she works there as a creative consultant, focusing...

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