An interdisciplinary network for participatory performance practice

Arts and Humanities Research Council (UK) Network Grant Project

This network project, lead by Gareth White (at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London) and myself,  brings together UK-based and European researchers, practitioners and practitioner-researchers. The goal has bee to explore new and novel approaches to creating intimate and intense experiences in live performance through play and games. It responds to the growing prevalence of participatory strategies across different performance forms, and to the practical and ethical challenges of involving spectator-participants in intimate and intense activities.

Network partner Lundhal and Seitl’s Amissing Room (2020).

Network partner ZU-UK’s Binaural Dinner Date (2017).

The project’s concerns straddle live art, dance, and theatre, including game-based theatre, and the network comprises leading practitioners, practitioner-researchers and theoretical researchers from theatre and performance studies, dance studies, and game research. While formal research into participatory performance is under way across these fields, interaction between these them is intermittent and inconsistent. There are gaps between similar but under-connected fields, and between formal and informal research, that this network will address, stimulating original research across and among them.

Network partner All Access Theatre’s Madhouse re:exit (2018).

Scholarly research into intimate and intense performance coincides with a pressing societal need for broader understanding of these burgeoning practices in their interdisciplinary and international contexts, and in particular how they can be ethical and safe – for both audiences and performers – as well as inviting, exciting and effective.

Two laboratory events, themed respectively as Intensity and Intimacy, were held in May and November, 2019, and combined practical investigations with round-table discussion and facilitated reflection. 

The second lab was immediately followed by a one-day conference at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, which included scholarly papers, practical workshops, featured performances, and a ‘tag team’ keynote presentation by White and Barton.

Network participants continue to collaborate on exploration, publication, and event facilitation, and we’ve begun to plan towards a counterpart North American event in the next 12 – 18 months. Of course, with the unprecedented developments related to individual and societal health, safety and mobility, our questions, points of entry, and activities are altering fundamentally. 

For more information related to the labs, conference, and other network activities, please follow the “Learn More” link, above, to the official research project website.