The Problem With Immersive Events
went off to a launch party last week in Shorditch. So, I pulled out my most distasteful granny jumper and tightest jeans out of my wardrobe to keep me warm and strutted off to have fun with some performers. My mind was racing in anticipation, and I was eager to really be surprised by the event.
As I descended the steps of the venue, I was photographed by fictional fascists who delightfully engaged me and offered back my words with performance....Looks promising.
But that was the end of the good times. What I started to realise, as I looked a at the rest of the guests rushing towards the free Gin, that this was not what I was expecting. Left to roam the basement of the venue, I found myself opening doors that lead nowhere, ascending stairs on to floors I was not supposed to, and struggling to find any performance anywhere. I did mange to find some sweet installations regarding objects from fiction, but I was the only one even remotely interested in what was in them, the bar was very full by now. It wasn't until the free gin ran out that the crowed began to depart, leaving behind a confused theatre maker in a granny jumper and tight jeans trying to figure out what the fuck this event was about.
Finding information on the company and the production being launched as just as hard as finding performance in the venue. Finally, when I get the information needed, the fundamental flaw of the evening was becoming apparent. Nothing in the event was linked in anyway to the production or the company. Even the producers answer about the event was "I have no idea what this is supposed to be"
Outside for a smoke. I hear the immortal words from a young hipster "I love immersive theatre events..." I began to think - had immersed in something? if so, what was it? There was no link between the installations and performances or the trendy music pumping out by a band call "Lone Taxidermist", let alone any way in for me to be immersed in the event. I have found that not a lot of theatre companies openly proclaim that they are immersive, unless they are exceptionally good at it (like Halfcut) but are usually labelled it by spectators/reviewers.
Why is it true that if a spectator is not asked to sit and watch the piece, it is considered immersive? To be immersed in something to to total enveloped by a single idea, and to be bombarded on every level into beliving the world opened up in front of you. You should be able to open every door and see something, every object in the room can be touched and played with, being placed in the space in order to add an extra strand of meaning and/or to pull you deeper into the world.
The problem with immersive events, is that the makers tend to think that it is easy, or are too lazy to consider every element and every object in the space. The word Immersive has become a fashion accessory used to sell tickets. Like Glastonbry, Immersive events will attract moths to the flame - people who are desperate to be a part of a "culture" without knowing why or even what they are going to. The spectator is the most important part, and equally the death knell of immersive performance. Once they, and the creators of these events realise that what immersive performance can be, the sooner the word can ripped from shiny ads, and given back to us in a way that can be fully realised.