Messing around in The Space Inbetween

Some weeks ago I was flying back from Barcelona  listening to the download of The Stopping Train, a new Sonic Journey written by Gavin Bryars and Blake Morrison for the railway line from Goole to Hull. Even out of context it’s sound world is enticing, making me want to experience the journey.


Playing with Kagura wizardry at Sonar

I’d been out in Barcelona for a couple of days at SONAR (Music, Creativity & Technology). All across the market place were hundreds of ideas, concepts and possibilities. Gaming meeting music production, textiles merging with technology, social experiments in participation and engagement. A smart phone orchestra, a hammock which sings and sooths, 3D sound installations : platforms, concepts, tools all fighting for your attention, all brimming with possibilities.


What excites…and if I’m honest…slightly frightens me about all this is the way these experiences are being used to explore new performance spaces and opportunities.

So I only half experienced The Stopping Train. I’ll only experience the full thing if I make that train journey, and I bet my last euro that experience will be massively enhanced by sharing that journey with others.

We (Unity) recently welcomed Metro Boulot Dodo (who recently transformed the Bombed Out Church in Out of the Darkness ) with a Unity Co commissioned project Hact. Audiences experienced two ‘plays’ without ever entering the theatre space…one is a trail through the building, others experienced through VR. Funnily enough early trials … in Leicester’s Curve and Stockton The Arc…suggest both might work better away from traditional venues.

What’s exciting about these projects is the way they ask you to be present, they require a meeting of the real and the digital world. A space where live, place and technology meets.
At the recent hub/London Sinfonietta Make Do and Bend hack Andrew Burke (Sinfonitta AD) and I exchanged tweets from across the room (don’t ask!)


wonder wall make do bend

Interestingly the ideas emerging from #makedobend explored a phrase I find myself using more and more – the space in between

That space in my world (theatre) sits between live performance (straight theatre) and digital relay (ie NT live).

It’s a huge space.

A space about new ways of audience interaction (not just sitting watching), of post and pre live show activity, of increasingly innovative ways of experiencing and sharing work.

But what that really means, and how organisations like Unity need ‘to rebalance’ I’m not sure anyone really knows. What we do know is that we have to play, explore, risk and experiment. Through such stuff answers might be found. And that’s why we’ve asked the hub working with Liverpool DOES to help us host HACKstage that brings together theatre technicians, technologists and creatives.  It’s an event that’s been made possible by a recent Arts Council England Catalyst:Evolve investment award (more of that here).

It’s worth remembering that theatre is as old as democracy itself. The 4th industrial revolution won’t change the pure brilliance of that theatrical interaction between audience and performer (the shiver down the spine moment). But what it is doing is changing what’s possible, how audiences behave / expect and what artists want to explore. And if that requires some rebalancing that’s very much an exploration worth having!

The Unity Hack will take place on 14- 16 September . Keep an eye on the Unity web site or the project mini site for more information, and for more details of the free event on the 16th September at 4pm when the ‘results’ of the hack will be shared see here!


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