Essai: Training the Audience

David Overend

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As a Glasgow-based theatre director – typically of new Scottish writing – I collaborate on a regular basis with the playwright-performer, Rob Drummond. This partnership began at the recently-closed Arches arts centre in Glasgow in the early 2000s, and over the last 15 years we have worked with several producing theatres in the UK on almost 20 productions, occasionally touring our work internationally (Overend 2015). In our latest work, the active involvement of the audience has become increasingly important. Rob, along with other cast-members, frequently addresses the audience directly, offering them an invitation: to cast their votes; to respond to arguments and propositions; to shout out, make themselves known, alter the course of the performance. While a fixed narrative almost always exists, we have begun to open our texts to improvised sections, discussion and debate, which we fold back into the carefully structured advancement of a story. This new dramaturgy has necessitated a shift in our rehearsal techniques. It is now no longer possible to see public performances as a final stage of the process. Rather, audiences have to be invited into the rehearsal room from the start, allowing us to try out ideas, discover new relationships, and adapt to the reactions that we encounter. We are honing our craft by subjecting ourselves to unexpected interventions, and preparing for a range of potential responses. In this short essai, I want to consider this as a reciprocal process, and ask whether, and in what ways, we are also training the audience.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)125-129
JournalTheatre, Dance and Performance Training
Publication statusPublished - 14 Mar 2018

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