The word ‘immerse’ is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary “to make (yourself) fully involved in some activity or interest”.
“A literary bestiary” was marketed as a site-responsive, immersive show. The curator and founder of the project insisted on using the term ‘show’ and in all prior communications with the media and the general public, the labels ‘immersive’ and ‘site-responsive’ was not only attached, but highlighted as a selling point.
As a co-producer, I found it difficult to defend the choice of the label immersive when the production was, in my opinion, a literary event with small bursts of theatricality that could be argued to have similarities of promenade theatre. To facilitate my argument, I will compare definitions of immersive theatre, give examples of other practitioners that presents immersive works whilst drawing comparisons back to “A literary bestiary”s artistic choices.
The concept of interactive, participatory theatre as immersive theatre experiences, promenade theatre and site-specific performances has had a massive rise in popularity the last decade. PunchDrunk, an immersive and site-sensitive company founded in 2000, is frequently mentioned when immersive theatre is discussed. They are self-proclaimed pioneers of a “game changing form of theatre in which roaming audience experience epic storytelling inside sensory theatrical worlds”(PunchDrunk, 2015).
In their production of “The Drowned Man”, a loose adaptation of Georg Buchner’s “Woyzeck”, the company completely transformed an empty four story high old warehouse near Paddington Station, filling it with large set pieces and props. The audience members were in the heart of the promenade production, and were free to wander the site whilst followin...
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...sily changed for another library as the site without it changing the performances. One of the acts, 2 actors performing Pu Songling and Aesop Fables from two spiral staircases, could have been performed on another set of staircases without the performance being altered significantly.
ARK’s intention to invite the audience on a site-responsive journey and to reanimate library spaces
However when not responding to the architecture, the history of the site or the community it has created, it is more of a staged performance in a non-conventional theatre space rather than a site-responsive performance.
The movement artist however had created a piece in the spirit of the theme, using the architecture to influence his moves. His physicality was informed by the shapes of the interior, though the story of his journey was a result of the stimulus given, the theme of bestiary.
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