Audience participation is often an integral part of children’s theatre, but this performance took interaction to a whole new level, to the absolute delight of the younger members of the audience.
As our tickets were taken at the door, it was explained that on entering the auditorium a woolly heart would be attached to each of us that would light up when it was time to take an interactive part in the show. Adults did not have to take part – although were welcome to if they wished – but children were asked to remove their shoes in anticipation of the glowing light that would call them onto the stage.
Italian theatre company ‘Compagnia TPO’, were originally founded in 1981 as a visual theatre company. Under the direction of Davide Venturini and Francesco Gandi since 1999, TPO have been experimenting with digital technologies that facilitate interaction between the performers and the stage space. Through applying computer-controlled sensors to images and sound, TPO have, by extension, also developed an innovative and imaginative way to involve audiences in this interactive process.
Swooping panoramic images were projected onto a curved white screen at the back of the performance space and more static images onto a white sheet that covered the floor. This provided an experience similar to that of an I-Max cinema, but the real magic came from the movement- and voice-activated animations that were then layered over this.
‘Kindur’, is Icelandic for ‘sheep’ and this performance invited everyone to travel across the strange and unusual landscape of Iceland with a particularly adventurous flock. The opening scene was of six-foot blades of bright green grass set against a brilliant blue sky. Three female performers, all accomplished dancers, moved across the space ‘painting’ the screen behind in colours whose trail echoed the movement each dancer had made.
The image on the back screen would, at intervals, move round and stop somewhere new: now dappled light covers the floor and the shadows of large birds swoop across the back screen. The animation on the floor starts to spin, some woolly hearts start to glow and the summoned audience members would step onto the stage space and, just like sheep, follow the mood and movements of the dancers. They jump in puddles making squelching noises and mud splats correspondingly appear on the screen behind them.
When the hearts stop glowing those audience members are herded back to their seats, all poised to rise again should the call come. The backdrop and floor would then spin round, stopping at a new scene, always with vivid colours and accompanied by sharply realistic sound effects.
We journeyed past stars and geysers, gigantic rumbling waterfalls of cascading white light and trolls made of rock and lava groaning in the clouds of debris from an erupting volcano.
At times this was sheer inspired brilliance but at other times it was a little too surreal to quite hit the mark. It does however provide serious food for thought in relation to taking the possibilities of audience participation to a new level of experience.
Part of the Imaginate Festival. Show ended.