This year’s Auckland Fringe Festival sees two different companies messing with audience expectations and tossing away the very idea of black box theatre. Fiona McNamara from Wellington group Binge Culture Collective tells Justin Gregory from Standing Room Only that things are changing.
“Performance like this is often called live art or live performance rather than theatre. Often there isn’t necessarily a linear narrative in what we’re doing. Or there is some kind of linear narrative but it’s in some way broken or chopped and changed a bit.”
Post-dramatic performance (or post-dramatic theatre) has a bone to pick with theatrical representation and orthodox ways of engaging with the audience. It tosses out action and replaces it with atmosphere. Narrative is sometimes nixed in favour of premise. One of Binge Culture’s two contributions to this year’s Fringe is a show called Whales. A group of actors performing as whales swim through Queen Street and then strand themselves in Aotea Square. A response team asks passers-by to look after the pod by placing wet towels on them and keeping them cool with buckets of water. Fiona says this kind of work is what Binge are all about.
“We make live performance where we really like to have the audience as the centre of the work, (work) that really relies on the audience and uses them as a key participant.”
Experimental theatre stalwart Stephen Bain has crafted a tribute to the long-gone Ponsonby of yesteryear. It’s a walking tour called I Wanna Be Na Nah Na Nah Nah. Two separate groups of audience members walk towards each other from different ends of Ponsonby Road, while listening through wireless headphones to music and stories about the suburb. After meeting in the middle, they cross over and then listen to what the other group has already heard.
The material for the show comes from the memories of two writers, Tessa Mitchell and Dave Fane, who both grew up in pre-posh Ponsonby.
“It’s very much about experiencing what Ponsonby is now, experiencing what walking is now. And so we think about the way space is used as well as the layers of history and the stories that are going on”
Stephen says the trend towards performing outside of usual theatrical venues is being led by both performers and audiences.
“When we walk on the street we create a history. We create things that happen because we stop, we talk to people. We are the thing that’s there. So we’re no longer separated at all from the action. We’re not outside of that.”
So get along, grab yourself a headset - or a whale – and make yourself a part of a performance. You are the show, after all.