Audience Participation and Neoliberal Value: Risk, agency and responsibility in immersive theatre

Adam Alston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Immersive theatre is an emerging theatre
style broadly premised on the production of
experiences. As this article looks to establish,
experiences are rendered an aesthetic site
of equal, if not greater, significance than the
immersive environments that arouse them.
But this premise, I believe, is contingent on
privileging a particular kind of participation:
one that I term ‘entrepreneurial participation’.
This is a kind of participation based on selfmade
opportunity. I will be thinking through
this suggestion in what follows, theorizing how
immersive theatre shares particular values with
neoliberalism, such as entrepreneurialism,
as well as the valorization of risk, agency
and responsibility. First, I will address how
immersive theatre is particularly susceptible
to co-optation by a neoliberal market given
its compatibility with the growing experience
industry and, second, I will expand on this
assertion by looking at how immersive theatre
mirrors a neoliberal value set, focusing on
the audience’s perception of risk. These two
discursive strands will form the basis for
establishing what values are shared between the
immersive theatre style and neoliberalism and
articulating how that sharing may impact on
theorizing participation in an immersive theatre
context. A more optimistic, but ultimately
sobering evaluation, of those values will be
offered in conclusion.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)128-138
JournalPerformance Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2013


  • Punchdrunk
  • immersive theatre
  • neoliberal value
  • neoliberalism
  • politics of participation
  • audience participation
  • entrepreneurial participation

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