25 years ago, the conversation around climate change and global warming was beginning to take off in earnest among scientists and policy-makers. Then, in the early 90s, a well-organised campaign driven by the fossil fuel industry began to target the science and scientists behind what had until then been a relatively undisputed scientific phenomenon. Suddenly, the existence and extent of humanity’s impact on the earth system became a topic of contention and dispute. A scientific debate became a political debate and the issue has become a divisive issue in popular culture.

While there are no shortage of examples of the environment as a subject in theatre, the current climate crisis has generated its own unique array of theatrical responses. Rather than attempt to survey the entirety of a huge and swiftly-growing field, I want to explore the topic of climate change in performance from the perspective of a theatre-maker, looking at some of the challenges and opportunities created by the form and highlighting some specific lessons from plays which I have a personal experience of.

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We’re super-chuffed to announce that we’ve been successful in our application for development funding from the 2012 ACT Arts Fund. We’ll be undertaking a residency for much of next year at Belconnen Arts Centre to look at ways of building on the stylistic work we did for TEDxCanberra with a new project that will try to fuse narrative theatre and lecture techniques as a way of broadening our audience reach, looking at the subject of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and broader themes of epidemiology and population health. This is a project we’re really excited about, you can read more about it here. More info soon – for now, celebration ice-creams all round.

Attending the PLAYER Festival of live gaming at the London Science Museum this last weekend, I took part in Seth Kriebel’s excellent Unbuilt Room performance, a live text adventure for five players. The game is structured as an 80s-style text adventure (think Zork or Adventure), with the audience taking it in turns to move the protagonist through a maze roughly mapped to the human brain.  The game lasts twenty minutes, and after several early fumbles we ran out of time before we solved the last puzzle.

Seth Kriebel’s The Unbuilt Room.

In correspondence after the festival, Seth advised that only 20% of playing audiences ‘completed’ the game. Far from being a frustration or concern, my experience with the Unbuilt Room was that our failure to solve all the puzzles in time was one of the most exciting things about the game. At its simplest level, I am now imagining all kinds of exciting endings to the story, to which the real ending cannot possibly compare. At another level, the Unbuilt Room demonstrates one of the key principles of interactive performance which Boho have discovered/rediscovered through our work: the audience needs to be allowed to fail.

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The Treasure Hunt is a scene we love using because it gets the audience working directly with the environment, so it’s great to break down walls. Depending on what you want to achieve, there are good ways to get story content out at the same time.

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Following our performance at TEDxCanberra 2011, which was kind of a pilot for us in combining lecture and storytelling with interactivity, we’re working on formalising our work over the last few years, categorising it, and considering where various techniques are most effective. Figuring that others might find this useful too, over the next few months we will be posting regular articles on interactive performance styles and tech, looking at ways that audience members can contribute to their own appreciation of a work, resulting in a richer artistic experience.

We’re looking to create a resource for people interested in developing interactive narrative performances, and we’ll be aiming to post a new article every week or two. The first of these is the Treasure Hunt interactive mechanism, it’s up now. Take a look.

You can also find all the information you need about the company, including previous productions and scripts, reviews and whatnot, and contact info – it’s a website.

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