With less than 2 weeks to go, I am finalising the production for the event. The main challenge is trying to work within time and (especially) financial constraints whilst trying to make a convincing space ship. I have been extremely lucky to have a small team of helpers from other theatre and design courses at UAL for this.
The decision we have made is to use neon signage with dystopian phrases around the venue, to give the impression of people ‘not getting what they bargained for’ in terms of life on Mars, 4 projectors within the building, so as to be able to give rich visual information without the need to physical building, and one centrepiece in the middle of the dance floor, which will represent the ‘mother ship’.
(Illustrations by design team, not myself).
This will be a kind of ‘pillar’ wrapped in neon UV cables and with some circuit boards. Whilst this is visually striking, it also very much fits with the aesthetic of ‘Nu Rave’ the musical theme, who’s aesthetic is all neon and glow sticks. It also fits with the broader aim of having decor and props which are consistent with the idea of the event being a party in which people are supposed to dance and have fun.
The deeper motivation for a centrepiece beyond it decoration, is a concept called ‘The Void’ by Jason Warren in his excellent book ‘Creating Worlds’.
Much of the theory I have read about Immersive Theatre presumes to project political or socio-economic motivations behind certain actions of Immersive Theatre companies after the fact by those not involved. Nassim Taleb in his book ‘The Black Swan’ describes such practice as ‘Lecturing Birds How To Fly’, that is, rationalising post-hoc something that has entirely practical reasons in the first place. An example of this is Adam Alston’s book ‘Beyond Immersive Theatre’,
in which he argues that the fact that one is ‘rewarded’ for being proactive in immersive theatre with individual scenes / interactions with actors is a reflection of New Labour and David Cameron’s embrace of the free market and generally the establishment of neoliberal economic thinking across the political spectrum in Britain in the 90s onwards. This is a neat theory, but it certainly doesn’t correspond to reality – immersive theatre productions such as Punchdrunk and Secret Cinema are businesses, and a major expense is acting talent – the ‘first come first served nature of interactions is entirely practical, as there are less actors than audience members for economic reasons.
Back to ‘The Void’, this is the idea that audiences will avoid large empty spaces, and that simply putting a pillar or other physical object will make those spaces more inviting to audience members. In fact Jason Warren’s example involves a night club scene in his own play:
I hope this will have the effect of making people feel comfortable on the dance floor from the beginning. Also, as ticket sales are currently very low (60 sold so far), it will help to ‘shrink’ the venue, making for a better atmosphere with less people.