Play, empathy and interaction

When it comes to the development of performance practice it has been acknowledged that performance can be more than illustrative – that the act of performance has the potential to inform and initiate a range of different embodied learning experiences. It can also connect people, facilitate collaboration, the exchange of ideas and can, under certain circumstances, make visible the processes involved in its creation. For instance, Foreman’s writing practices demonstrate the ability of a performance itself to document and make visible the creative process and the gradual and simultaneous development of both narrative and its meaning, turning the creative process into one that closely resembles academic research practice.

In the digital era connections made through performance still occur, yet the way in which this process occurs has altered how some performance companies address their working processes. To review how this type of work occurs multiple areas need to be addressed, and it is important to remember that because success can be measured in a variety of different ways the ‘impact’ and ‘value’ of this performance is difficult to assess. For example, it’s popularity, the demographic of its audiences, it’s ability to widen access to performance and it’s financial success all play a part.
However, it’s also worth questioning why this approach is used not just how it is used.

One such performance was the RSC’s on-line interpretation of Romeo and Juliet – Such Tweet Sorrow. It’s ability to provide an insight into each character proved popular, offering a multi-viewpoint perspective through which the audience could choose which elements they were most interested in – a selective process that occurs differently within live stage performance. This meant that audiences were more involved, even though they may have lived miles apart, connecting them with both the performers and other audience members.

This performance also offered an interesting alternative to highly priced theatre tickets, especially in relation to the idea of collaborations between ‘outsider artists’. It is important to note that when I use the term outsider art I use it to mean a collaboration between those professionally trained in performance industries that have been disconnected due to location or financial restrictions. In this instance, digital platforms become performance platforms and a way to share data, but also a way to make the creative process and the intricacies of this process a little more visible.

However, whilst the platform used by Such Tweet Sorrow may be a useful one for some it will not be for all, just as the theatre auditorium may exist as an accessible and relevant space for some but not all. The open nature of the performance platform itself meant that such an approach to performance development, albeit new, puts it at risk of trolling and unhelpful, distracting comments. And whilst its application may facilitate a multi-character perspective that appeals to a specific type of audience member it is necessary to look back as well as forward.

For instance, this interpretation of Romeo and Juliet offers an interesting view of how a specific demographic has explored as well as performed Shakespeare. Yet, there are similarities between this process and that used by established practitioners. Drawn back by the open nature of the writing process of Foreman and the physically explorative processes used by companies such as Frantic Assembly, alongside the need to move forward, there are perhaps different ways to use interactive practices to engage new audiences in key texts.

29th Oct 2018.

'There are times when the simple dignity of movement can fulfill the function of a volume of words.' - Doris Humphrey.