Immersive theatre is a slippery beast, a serious sea-monster for a dramaturg to wrangle. To stick with the sea: if a traditional staged play is a trip to the aquarium, immersive theatre is more like snorkelling. You can watch interactions from afar, choose how close you get to the wildlife (absolutely no sharks, we promise!), stay on the surface or dive a little deeper if you see a fish you want to follow. But no matter what route you choose, you’re there in the water. There’s no glass between the audience and the action.
Our process for this play has been exactly zero percent like anything any of us have ever done. Usually we’ve worked with one writer and started rehearsals with a solid draft on the go. This time we went the menagerie route: five performers; writer, director & dramaturg; a four-piece jazz band; some visual artists; a design & stage-management team; and a disused office suite four floors up. In just four weeks together we’ve birthed five characters, ten songs, many layers of visual storytelling and a 30-year-old international phenomenon called The Lost Martini. The script, songs and space have been built in tandem -- an odd, irregular act of coordinated virtuosity.
If I had to pin down our process in one word? BALANCE. It’s not just the practicality of rewiring and constructing a jazz café while actors wander through the rooms, learning their intersecting story journeys; there’s balance at the core of the play’s form.
First off, we’ve got the form and structure of a night out at a jazz club: There’s a bar and a stage. Patrons greet each other, mingle, dance, drink, laugh. The band plays. The owner perambulates. And on top of that literal real-world-ism we’ve balanced a story, quietly set loose in the space, circulating among the characters and audience. Secrets and bald-faced lies, propositions and bets, surreality and seriousness. All while you’re enjoying jazz & sipping a martini.
When you’re used to a single stage with synchronised scenes, it’s tricky to accept that action will happen elsewhere, and that your version of the night will be very different from people on another path. That goes for theatre-makers as well as -goers. We’ll all be operating differently than usual, and getting a new kind of enjoyment from this sort of drama.
The whole Accidental company for The Lost Martini – from performers to guitarists and illustrators – are looking forward to swimming with you guys. Trust us. No sea monsters. But see if you can find the dragon ...