Immersive theatre is billed as a thrilling and intimate alternative to traditional drama, but it smacks of triviality and low-level fascismby Michael Coveney / August 19, 2010 / Leave a comment
Published in September 2010 issue of Prospect Magazine
You Me Bum Bum Train takes audience participation to the limit
Not long ago, the audience in a theatre was there to watch a play. Nowadays, the audience is the play, or at least the protagonist in a production that is animated by the paying customer.
Recently I visited an abandoned electricity board building in Bethnal Green, east London, signing away my possessions and jacket on the door. My loafers were gaffer-taped to my socks; I was placed in a wheelchair; pushed through swing doors; and berated about the bad form of an American football team. Two seconds later, I was in a locker room, delivering a pep talk while 15 hunks glowered at me through facepaint and helmet guards.
And that was just the start. Over the next 40 minutes, I entered a tunnel lying on my back for an MRI scan, emerging through a sushi restaurant and a lost luggage department and then (still on my back) into the undercarriage of a car, and next a garage where I had to explain why the car wasn’t ready.
Hustled unceremoniously onwards, I gave a briefing on the BP oil spill, took questions on my shares in the company, delivered a sermon at a gospel meeting (I was in the wheelchair again and stupidly omitted to rise out of it on a tide of hallelujahs), and signed copies of a book I had published on “Happiness,” assuming the demeanour of a professional grouch.