Thursday, February 18, 2010

Reflecting of Push and Performance

What is theatre? A basic performance only requires a space, an actor and an action but is that theatre? For those of you that didn't see Best Before, it was an experience in virtual reality, giving each audience member control of a small bouncing dot and requiring them to make decisions about the fate of that dot. There was some actual live action performance spliced in but the real show was the interface between audience and technology. Certainly the creators went to a lot of trouble to make it feel like theatre but is a bunch of people sitting is room together, playing a video game theatre?

Many friends of mine play online games such as World of Warcraft, in which they interact with other people, create elaborate characters, go on missions and experience intense emotions regarding victories and loses. However, I think most people would agree that this isn't theatre. So what is it about Best Before that pushes it beyond a mere video game? Perhaps it is the fact that we are in a theatre, experiencing it together and reacting to each others presence. Perhaps it is the people controlling the experience or the dramatic interludes. Or maybe this isn't theatre at all but a kind of performance art. I'm still not sure.

One of the things I admire about the Push Festival is it's commitment to putting on shows that blur the boundaries. Most of the shows I saw, including Best Before, were difficult to define. Theatre is a type of performance but not all performances are defined as theatre. A guy simply standing, showing slides and talking about his trip to China. Theatre? A guy projecting his family album in a bunny suit. Theatre? A collective video game. Theatre? In all these cases, I'm not sure what to conclude. However, I tend toward a more permissive view. If theatre is to challenge and engage it must arrest and this is rarely achieved in your tradition plot driven play.

1 comment:

  1. Very good questions you raise here, Jennifer. I think it's definitely all performance, some of it more, some of it less, "theatrical." In all cases, that crucial element of coming together as an audience is what remains key for me.