It seems a lot of theatre lately is being labelled as ‘interactive’. As a catch-all phrase, it was particularly prevalent during this year’s Edinburgh Fringe – a diverse range of shows carried the label in reviews, simplifying their essence to a buzzword which suggested a familiar theme running through them.
But to suggest true similarities within the work is misleading. I’ve seen articles and reviews discussing interactive work whilst covering a range of shows which are not truly interactive – at least, not in the sense I perceive. Ontroerend Goed have created a canon of work which is regularly categorised as ‘interactive’ – but as Matt Trueman succinctly points out, the example this year of Audience does not engage its audience in any form of true dialogue, and thus cannot be called such. Delve further into their back catalogue and shows such as Once And For All We’re Going To Tell You Who We Are So Shut Up And Listen and Under the Influence fall into the same predicament – their intention seems much more to provoke a reaction than to genuinely interact with its audience, and albeit in a less direct way than Audience to challenge the boundaries of the performer/audience relationship. Internal and The Smile Off Your Face are definitely much more interactive pieces – but through using the model of one-on-one performance, a form which lends itself to the label naturally.