Trend For Interactive Theatre Experience Is Just The Starting Point

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Straddling the line between Arts and Brands, interactive theatre experiences have become increasingly mainstream.

Just look at what Punchdrunk did for Louis Vuitton’s Bond Street store launch, swiftly followed by its creation of the consumer-focussed ‘Night Chauffeur’ for Stella Artois and the creepy release of Resistance 3 for PlayStation. Or Coney’s current run of House of Cards, commissioned by Historic Royal Palaces, and tonight’s Gideon Reeling production of ‘Magic Happens on the Darkest Nights’ for Bowmore Whisky. If a brand wants it, it can easily get it.

But brands aside, the trend also has direct commercial value/potential – proven by the unrelenting Secret Cinema, and the immersive outings: Office Party, Zombie Shopping Mall Experience and YouMeBumBumTrain.

Interactive theatre is the medium, but immersion is the experience that beckons the emotional response and the unlocking of hearts, minds and souls (cue this summer’s ideally positioned ‘Advertising for Love’ to experience all three).

For punters, interaction with looming actors might be the hook to the experience, but for brands, this is their hook to potential customers. These experiences shut out reality and mentally absorb the audience into another state of mind. At their most successful, the audience will feel personally touched by an unforgettable, emotional and sensory connection – powerful stuff for a brand.

But does the rise of interactive theatre signal the emergence of a broader trend?

Earlier this week, Channel 4 News had a feature on Book Slam, a “literary cabaret” fusing spoken word and performance poets with live music, DJs and stand-up comedy. The event’s popularity has grown rapidly in response to a “hunger for live… to make a human connection in a chaotic situation” as the eBook revolutionises the publishing industry.

It made me wonder:

Has the level of interactive, engaging functionality we now expect from Digital morphed our real-world view? Outside of user-interface, mobile device and tablet integration in daily life, have we become more open-minded to the new, the different, to the immersive quirk of interactive theatre, to live experiences?

Or:

Is this need for live an unwitting backlash against Digital? Have we become so tech savvy that our saturated Digital complacency has sent us on the hunt for more human, tangible, offline, offbeat live experiences?

Either way, a trend paradox of Online v Offline experience has emerged.

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