Architecture, Actor and Audience (Theatre Concepts)


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This gives the performance the opportunity to appear and disappearing in different places around the audience and the performance becomes far more unpredictable. Looking at actual magic- and conjuring shows in theatres, the magical illusion is created by using simple tricks to mock the audience. The actual magic trick is not what the audience can see but what the audience cannot see. To create an illusion, we first need to trick and fool the audience.


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However, according to Nelms, for a trick to become an illusion, it needs another very important element; it needs to have meaning. The audience has to believe what is happening and it has to make sense even though they are aware of it just being a performed magic tick. Suppose that, without coming near me, you simply gestured towards my pocket and told me to put my hand in it. I did so and took out a ham sandwich. Look in your left coat pocket. This has a point.

It makes sense. You cannot work that sort of miracle, but you can add meaning to your conjuring. Apart from magic shows and conjuring, there are, of course, other forms of illusionary performances that make the audience believe that what they see is not what is actually there. Puppetry, for example, has the strong ability to trigger illusions.

Architecture, Actor and Audience by Iain Mackintosh

This performance is a very abstract and minimalised version of puppetry but this fact makes the resulting illusion even stronger and more fascinating. The puppet in this work of art is nothing more than five individual white ping-pong balls. In fact, it is very much a fragmented puppet. It is then about how those five balls are combined and especially how they start to move together that creates the illusion of a human being telling the story of life. Lighting and shadow are equally important to create such an illusionary experience.

In the example of the five ping-pong balls, the lighting is set to highlight the white balls, whereas everything else, including the puppeteer, stays in the dark.

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Whether it is magic tricks, puppetry or any other form of performance wanting to create an illusionary experience, the key to success is what the audience can see and hear and even more what they cannot see and hear. An immersive experience is either when being in an actual physical environment or when being put into a virtual space that has the look and feel of a physical environment.

An experience will need the power of the magical illusion and the mystification of the brain in order to become fully immersive. An immersive performance should create the illusion for the audience of being part of the performed and told story.

Writers Theatre by Studio Gang Architects

Figure Simon McBurney rehearsing with the binaural head, July Image: Sarah Ainslie. One very recent performance at the Barbican Centre in London is a perfect example of the audience becoming an actual part of the act on stage. It represents a member of the audience on stage and it can pick up stereo sound just like a human ear would receive it.

The idea behind this performance is simple but extremely effective. Each member of the audience is wearing a pair of headphones and those are connected to the binaural recordings from the dummy head. Because of this binaural experience, one feels like sitting on stage with the actor walking around and talking directly at oneself. This makes it extremely immersive and also very personal as in the end it is a direct performance between one individual listener and the actor himself.

Just like when reading a book, watching a movie can be a very intense immersive experience. As the story is supported by visual and audio content, drifting off into this immersive world should be even easier. Especially in the movie- and gaming industry the immersive sound technologies have been pushed and improved in a way that it is not limited to big cinemas anymore but are nowadays almost standard in every home tv setup. As discussed in a panel talk about the future of sound at the Plasa Show in London [ref23], the fact that such technology has become rather cheap and accessible, leads to people getting used to this kind of setting and would like to experience the same in any other performance and event situation.


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In terms of immersive sound experiences for large audiences and big scale music production, the popular brands of audio and amplification equipment have been working hard on finding new ways to achieve this. A systems which has been used successfully during the last year is the L-ISA processor by speaker manufacturer L-Acoustics [ref24]. It gives the sound engineer the ability to not only pan the audio sources to a left and right channel but also back and forth in space and accurately reposition sounds according to their origin on stage in the amplified sound scape.

A fully immersive illusion is not only created by using audio — the visual incentive as well as the stimulus of all other senses is just as important. The more senses can be triggered, the more immersive and realistic the experience feels. In terms of the visual immersion, VR has become a leading technology. However, a person has to perform a physical action to put themselves into the immersive virtual space by putting on the VR goggles. Even though the virtual reality and in the future the augmented reality will be a key technology, I find it far more interesting in creating these experiences without the need of the audience wearing specific gear on or in front of their head [figure17].

Even though this paper was written back in , the industry aim and the concept of sound-to-light environments have not changed but the technology has become far more accessible and its variety much wider. On of the leading stage performance examples these days , especially in terms of the visual aspect, is the Holo-Show by producer and DJ Eric Prydz [ref27] which was presented at Creamfields Festival,UK. It uses high-resolution holographic images as well as intense laser-lights and kinetic stage structures.

According to industry professionals, this show even holds the world record for using the highest amount of kinetic hoists in a single show [ref28]. The 4k holographic images are of such detail and quality that it is hard to tell for the human eye whether these are real object floating in mid-air or just digital reproductions [figure18]. Figure Astronaut Hologram at Epic 5.

The immersive and the illusionary performance both try to close the gap between the stage and the audience from the side of the stage. Both types of performances aim to give the audience the feeling of being integrated and part of the performance itself although in a passive manner. The interactive performance however, has a different approach by giving the audience an opportunity to become an active and controlling part of the performance. Having a single member of an audience interacting with a performance is very doable scenario and there are multiple examples of interactive installations and performances where, for example, one member of the audience is being taken up on stage and is given a simple task but how can an audience crowd be used for interaction?

In Swarm, the audience movement — in both groups and as individuals — is measured and used to generate live visual and audio content as well as the movement guidelines for the six performing artists.

Architecture, Actor and Audience

The interaction in this case was only to put on the wristband, lift your hand up in the air at the right moment and wave it to the music. It still gave each one the feeling of being a part of overall experience [figure19]. Together with a pair of headphones it will give each individual person in the audience the possibility to live-mix the concert sound and to completely personalise the sonic experience. An interesting approach towards crowd interactivity. As he states, the order can give a kind of familiarity and feel of safety to a subject, whereas the complexity adds excitement and variety.

Looking at performances and stage designs, the same rule could be applied.

Interactive theatre: five rules of play from an audience perspective

Especially when looking at music and concert performances. The music is supported by lights and visually stimulating effects. These effects could be considered the added complexity in the show environment. The stage itself has also a high level of order. Whether it is a centre, proscenium or deep stage, it has its location and the audience knows where it is and therefore, they will focus on that area. How can we add a level of complexity to the stage itself without the use of fireworks and lasers? Does the stage, as we know it, have to stay in one piece and at one location?

What happens when the performance and the stage start to split up and their fragments begin to happen all around the audience? The cybernetician Gordon Pask wrote in his paper A comment, a case history and a plan [see ref26] very interestingly about the relationship of an artwork and its observer. He writes about his idea of an environment that is aesthetically potent. In other words, we try to analyse and structure new situations in order to understand them. If there is too much order in the beginning, then there is no stimulus to explore the environment.

Therefore the complexity is needed to trigger our interests to explore. Pask lists four essential characteristics in his paper to make an environment aesthetically pleasing:. Neither the order nor the complexity should be dominating the environment. Going back to aesthetically potent [Pask] stage scenarios, it could either be the classic, well-arranged stage order with lots of visually exciting effects complexity or it could be a complex and fragmented, maybe even spatially self-arranging stage scenario where carefully placed lighting and visual stimuli is used to add the necessary structure and order.

Finding answers to my thesis questions and figuring out whether those questions make sense or not, can only be done by testing them in experiments. In a very first project, I experimented with the question of location- and performance relationship and the magical element of the visual illusions as well as appearance and disappearance.

But what if this stage is completely different, completely unexpected?

The classic red telephone box was used as an unexpected stage for a simple performance. However, it was not picked randomly. The telephone box has a high cultural value in Great Britain and is probably one of the most photographed objects and still, it is falling apart due to a lack of usefulness in the age of the mobile phone.

Architecture, Actor and Audience (Theatre Concepts) Architecture, Actor and Audience (Theatre Concepts)
Architecture, Actor and Audience (Theatre Concepts) Architecture, Actor and Audience (Theatre Concepts)
Architecture, Actor and Audience (Theatre Concepts) Architecture, Actor and Audience (Theatre Concepts)
Architecture, Actor and Audience (Theatre Concepts) Architecture, Actor and Audience (Theatre Concepts)
Architecture, Actor and Audience (Theatre Concepts) Architecture, Actor and Audience (Theatre Concepts)
Architecture, Actor and Audience (Theatre Concepts) Architecture, Actor and Audience (Theatre Concepts)
Architecture, Actor and Audience (Theatre Concepts) Architecture, Actor and Audience (Theatre Concepts)

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