Dominic Cavendish came to see OUTDOORS the week before last and this is what he thought:

Friday night in Aberystwyth – and it’s bucketing down. I’m standing, drenched, beneath an umbrella, on the promenade looking out to sea – a coalface of darkness. By rights, I should be utterly miserable. What’s more, sporting chunky headphones and required to squint at an iPod screen, I should feel ridiculous. Not a bit of it. I’m too enthralled to care.

It’s not that I’m oblivious to my surroundings. The beauty of Outdoors, the latest presentation from National Theatre Wales – concocted by visiting Berlin company Rimini Protokoll – is that it uses new technology and gadgetry to bring you into closer connection with a real place, and real people.

Nine members of local choir Heartsong have recorded friendly video spiels guiding you around their favourite bits of the Welsh town, pointing out particular places of personal interest – a pot of plants outside a shop, say, or a fancy eatery that someone they know runs, or a gloomy passageway bearing a mysterious chalk-marking that’s the cue for a tall tale.

Being welcomed is what it’s all about, as you’d like to be included were you to enter a roomful of strangers. And that’s literally what happens at the show’s finale.

Once a month for the next year, on the evening the choir meets to rehearse, nine spectators will be able to undertake the trail, each carving his or her own solo, predetermined path through the town before arriving at the same time at the choir’s meeting place to hear them in full song.

Every neighbourhood should, one feels, try something similar. In a way, though, you could argue that it’s already happening. The burgeoning appetite for unconventional forms of performance – be they promenade productions or site-specific work – coupled with a hunger for a stronger sense of community is fast making all our towns a stage.

 

For the full article, and to read how Dominic sees OUTDOORS in the context of current site-specific theatre through the UK, read on here.

 

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Bringing an outsider’s eye to the trend [of promenade performance] in Britain, Stefan Kaeg of Rimini Protokoll believes the pattern is reflected across the world.

“It’s funny,” he says. “In the Nineties, it looked as if nobody wanted to go to the theatre anymore because film was seen as so much better, but what has happened over the past five or 10 years is that more people go to new forms of theatre and not so many go to the cinema. And if they want to be together, they don’t want so much to sit in a black space and not meet people.

“Theatre-makers are realising that the essence of their art is not about admiring the virtuosity of actors – it’s about bringing people together and making them experience something. It’s not about watching someone else’s dream, it’s about making the dream together.”

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