Audiences: Immersive and Participatory
This chapter will illustrate that since the 1990s Irish theatre and performance has experienced a movement away from the dominant tradition of literary drama and become increasingly aware of experimental and participatory forms of performance. Reflecting upon the changing performance paradigms in contemporary Irish performance since the 1950s, my analysis will consider the rise of participative and immersive theatre practice on the island of Ireland from the 1990s onwards and the connection of this emergent paradigm to the performance of memory.
This chapter also aims to address the question: “What constitutes an audience?” By acknowledging that the term “audience” cannot be universally defined, this chapter aims to outline and analyse key critical contributions to audience theory as a means of interpreting the criteria of participative and immersive audiences in contemporary performance contexts. The chapter aims to interrogate the function of audiences in contemporary Irish immersive and participatory performance, highlighting an alternative form of active spectatorship. Prominent in this investigation is the audience’s relationship to the site of these performances and the “moments of communion” between the audience and the performer in the chapter’s case studies.
The chapter also outlines theoretically, internationally applicable definitions of immersive and participatory theatre and considers their relationship to Irish audiences and Irish performance practice in relation to selected case studies. Through these investigations, it will be argued that contemporary Irish performance practitioners have provided their audiences with a means of experiencing performance that removes the valorisation of the well-established text–author–theatre relationship and creates an opportunity for “active” spectating or witnessing.
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