Recently I reviewed a some new work at the Southwark Playhouse in London where young people explored the issued surrounding sex and pornography in a safe and open environment. Themes based around sex and sexuality seems to be part of a new generation of production as theatre becomes less about show and tell and more about allowing an audience to interact with the show. The recent production of the 1923 story The Great Gatsby here in a London and Sleep No More, loosely based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet in New York.
Whilst the aim of these productions is to bring the audience away from the traditional bystanders and become part of the story being told and there have evidence of audience members taking part in a fun and erotic way, boundaries are still be being breached and in some cases a huge lack of respect for the actors.
Why is the Sky Blue? was a very subjective production based on interviews of young people the same age as those in the show. The audience were invited to participate, they asked questions, danced with the cast and even gave their opinion. But the boundaries were there, the audience did not get up on stage the cast stayed on stage and at the end the audience left after the cast had gone to the dressing room.
Can you imagine what would have happened if that audience had crossed the thresholds? Or vice versa that a cast member got all erotic with an audience member, bearing in mind that the age range of the cast of six to twenty two year of age.
Theatre has always been about inspiring hearts and minds; it should always aim to challenge the status quo and personal views as it explores the different social issues in today’s generation. But it should always be done in an environment that is safe for everyone including those that create and perform.
Other shows that could really take to a platform of what is known as immersive theatre would musicals like Cabaret, or walking through the woods of Shakespeare’s Midsummer’s night Dream, caught in the battles of Romeo and Juliet.
Whilst some of the issues could easily be blamed on provocative publicity which some of it is built on self-indulgence side, however, those booking to see the shows still need to understand that even though they are being invited to be part of the narrative it does not mean audience members can make up their own part of the show by doing what they feel suits them.
It is encouraging, but at the same time sad to hear the security measure to protect cast and crew have had to be stepped up involving the need to install panic buttons for the event of unwelcomed behaviour from audience members.
If you are reading this as someone going to see some form of immerse theatre then remember the enjoyment is there for everyone, so treat the cast and crew as you would do at any other event. As for cast and crew if anything happens that you are not happy or comfortable with ensure you report it straight away, safety is paramount for all involved.