Over four full-length shows and a series of shorter works, Boho have experimented with a wide range of interactive mechanisms. Starting back in 2005 with a torchbeam which the audience used as a mouse cursor (Playable Demo) and moving through hacked console controllers (A Prisoner’s Dilemma), hands-on models (the sandpile model in Food for the Great Hungers), onstage treasure hunts (True Logic of the Future) through to adapted boardgames (Modelling Play). With Word Play, Boho are trialling a whole new interactive device – the smartphone – while at the same time returning to the company’s roots in adapting video game control systems for the stage.

I spoke with the duo behind Word Play, Jack Lloyd and Mick Bailey, about the phone-based interactivity within the show.

David: Why did you decide to go with smartphone interactivity for this show?

Jack: Everyone has a phone. It’s an interactive device that’s hugely powerful, that everyone knows how to use, and that fit really nicely within the world of the play.

Mick: The whole show is operable by SMS, with the intention that the play is accessible to as many people as possible, regardless of the handset they own.

Jack: But we have a good relationship with a local iOS developer, Bonobo Labs, who have thrown their support behind developing an app for iPhone and iPad that audience members can use to interact with the show.

David: What does the control mechanism look like?

Mick: We break the show down into three kinds of interaction – a vote, a message and a control, like arrow keys. This means we can call on the whole audience or just individuals to give their input and guide the show along.

David: What impact does this have on the characters and the show?

Jack: We use interactivity to give an audience the opportunity to explore the work from the direction that they’re interested in. They can ask us things directly about the world we’re presenting, or vote to hear about one thing or another, or even pilot actors around the space. This is hopefully all part of a richer experience for the audience – it adds a liveness and an immediacy to the performance when you know that what the character does next is wholly dependent on your input.

David: How do you think this will feel for the audience?

Mick: Hopefully it’s an intuitive experience for them. It’s an unusual format to view a show in, to be sitting in one place and to see it all unfold on the screen, performed in a totally different building, but the interactivity with the audience is crucial – it’s really the difference between a live performance and what may as well be prerecorded film. The interactivity makes it theatre again.

Jack: I think that when the audience are all huddled together in the darkened theatre, sitting amongst a sea of bottom-lit faces and doing what they can to keep our characters alive, I reckon it’s going to feel pretty damn special.

Where: CSIRO Discovery Centre, Clunies Ross street, Acton

When: 7:30pm Wednesday – Saturday 15-18 May, 22-25 May, 29 May-1 June

Tickets: $20 – buy tickets here.

This is a Centenary of Canberra project, proudly supported by the ACT Government & CSIRO.

Something is wrong.

In the last few months, a new disease has emerged that is transmitted not by water, by air, by contact – but by speech. Language. Via text messaging and email, telephone or video.

This disease attacks thought itself, undermining our ability to think critically and resist other people’s influence. This is an epidemic of harmful ideas and broken logic. And it’s spreading. Whole communities of people, highly contagious, wandering about, unable to talk, unable to take care of themselves, looking for things to believe in.

In a few short months, the epidemic has hit a critical mass and gone global. The population of entire countries have been infected and gone under, and all international communications have collapsed entirely. In Australia, the last remaining survivors have been quarantined in bunkers, isolated from any potentially infected communications from the world outside.

Now, as food and medical supplies are running short, a group of scientists from a medical research laboratory are about to embark on a last-ditch attempt to release a cure. Boho invites you join us as we open channels to the last functioning research centre in Australia for a lecture that will turn the tide of this epidemic.

Don’t believe everything you hear.

Boho’s new show Word Play is performed on-screen from across the city. The audience are situated in the CSIRO Discovery Centre lecture theatre, while the performers are live-streamed from a laboratory across the city using a high-speed video broadband connection.

Using text messages and a purpose-built phone app, the audience are able to interact directly with the performance, communicating with the performers and controlling them through a series of live computer game sequences.

Word Play is a performance lecture exploring concepts from epidemiology, a live cinema experience and a hands-on video game in the survival horror genre.

Bring your phone.

Since forming in 2006, Boho’s Michael Bailey, Jack Lloyd and David Finnigan have presented interactive cross-artform performances to festivals, theatres, science conferences and schools including the Brisbane Under The Radar Festival, the Asia-Pacific Complex Systems Conference, the Adelaide Fringe Festival, the Manning Clark House Centre for Scholarly & Cultural Research, TEDxCanberra, CSIRO’s Lecture series and the Street Theatre’s Independent Season.

Boho’s recent works include True Logic of the Future (2010), a science fiction ‘parable for the Anthropocene’ exploring the challenges facing Australia in the 21st century from the forces of climate and global change, and Food for the Great Hungers (2009), an interactive re-imagining of Australian history since 1901.

Word Play combines Boho’s unique style of interactive theatre with the world of film. For this project, Boho have welcomed on board director Marisa Martin, a film-maker and head of the Lights! Canberra! Action! film festival. Marisa says of the play, ‘ a filmmaker, the use of cameras in the production really appeals to me and throwing in interactivity makes for an exciting storytelling environment I’ve not been able to explore before. It should make for a highly engaging experience for the audience.’

Word Play features performers Raoul Craemer, Cathy Petocz and Euan Bowen.

Created in residence at the CSIRO, Boho’s new work looks at the behaviour of epidemics, focusing on an ominous trend in medical research over recent decades.

As a result of widespread use of antibiotics, almost every type of harmful bacteria has become stronger and less responsive to treatment. Antibiotics that were once reserved as drugs of last resort are now routinely deployed, and the microbes are now overcoming even these final defences.

Old scourges such as Tuberculosis are returning, completely immune to remedy. Meanwhile, new and appallingly lethal diseases such as Hendra, SARS and Ebola are increasingly brought into contact with people through evolving networks of human behaviour – urbanisation, agriculture and travel. The results are impossible to predict.

Boho’s research into this area included a visit to the Australian Animal Health Laboratories near Geelong, Victoria, where we were lucky enough to be taken to Biosecurity Level 3, and visit the room where the samples of Ebola, Hendra, Nipah and SARS were kept. Read more here.

Where: CSIRO Discovery Centre, Clunies Ross street, Acton

When: 7:30pm Wednesday – Saturday 15-18 May, 22-25 May, 29 May-1 June

Tickets: $20 – buy tickets here.

Images by Rohan Thomson.

This is a Centenary of Canberra project, proudly supported by the ACT Government & CSIRO.

We are very excited to invite you to a work in progress showing by Boho Interactive, on Saturday 27th October at 12:00pm, at the CSIRO Discovery Centre Theatre in Acton.

Following several months of intensive research and script development, including visiting the Australian Animal Health Laboratories in Geelong, we are presenting a development showing of our project based on concepts from epidemiology, microbiology and antibiotic development.

Conceptually Transmissible Aphasia: Current understandings of pathogenesis and modern methods of control is a performance in the style of a scientific lecture with videoconferencing, that looks at the emergence of a novel disease agent. At this showing we will present a small suite of ideas that we are hoping to get your input on. This showing is the culmination of research and development work that has been undertaken with the support of an ACT Arts Fund Project grant for 2012, CSIRO and Centenary of Canberra.

Following the showing there will be a Q&A session, where we would very much appreciate your feedback to assist in the ongoing development of the work. Refreshments will be provided and we will be happy to have a chat with you in person at the end of the Q&A.

In coming months, we will be heading back into script development to prepare for the presentation of the work in its full iteration as part of the Centenary of Canberra program in May 2013, once again generously supported by the ACT Government and CSIRO.  You can see our program listing here. RSVPs are appreciated, to info@bohointeractive.com or through the Facebook event. We hope you are able to attend and help us shape the future of this work.About the project

As a result of widespread use of antibiotics below effective levels, every type of harmful bacteria has become stronger and less responsive to treatment. Antibiotics that were once reserved as drugs of last resort are now being routinely used, and bacteria are now showing resistance to these medicines. Meanwhile, dormant animal reservoirs of novel diseases such as Hendra, SARS and Ebola are increasingly brought into contact with people through evolving networks of human behaviour – agriculture, travel and urbanisation.

We use systems of antibiotic resistance and pathogen emergence as a jumping off point to apply to other resistances – our inherent ability to resist external social and cultural influences. We consider the potential ramifications of epidemic failure of critical thinking and an unstoppable spread of harmful ideas and broken logic. For instance, were a disease to emerge that was transmitted person-to-person via text messaging, email, telephone or video, what steps of biocontainment could be taken to identify the pathogen, halt its spread and develop a cure?

The format of the showing draws on conventions of scientific lecture. This repurposing of an existing presentation style for narrative theatre offers the potential for a hyper-real experience wherein a seemingly mundane and credible presentation is contrasted with a surreal and highly speculative scenario.

The showing employs elements of theatre, film and video gaming. The performance will be viewed by audiences in the CSIRO Discovery Centre lecture theatre, with one character in the theatre and one in a second venue, elsewhere within the CSIRO Black Mountain facility. For part of the showing, this second performer is visible on a large screen in the theatre via high bandwidth videoconference. The audience interact in real time with the other stage using mediated communications channels. The audience as individuals and as a group solves a series of puzzles within the narrative to resolve an immediate crisis.

With the advent of accessible, high quality live video transfer, new methods of performance interaction have become possible. Given the pace of the National Broadband Network rollout, these techniques are likely to be ubiquitous within the next three years. The use of lecture theatre spaces opens up a vast new resource of readily available, high capacity, low cost venues which are otherwise underutilised for creative works.

Videoconference is essentially scale-free, offering the potential to tour nationally or internationally with minimal cost, with the performance set, cast and crew remaining in place in Canberra and performers travelling with nominal technical equipment to venues with appropriate broadband capacity. Future implications of this or similar work include the presentation of the work to multiple theatres simultaneously, vastly increasing our potential reach, and it would be a trivial step to simulcast performances to desktop computers anywhere in the world.

The development of this showing is supported by the ACT Government through the ACT Arts Fund 2012 project funding. The upcoming major performance season in 2013 is supported by the ACT Government through the ACT Arts Fund 2012 project funding.
This is a Centenary of Canberra project, proudly supported by the ACT Government.


The CSIRO Australian Animal Health Laboratories (AAHL) is a world-class biological research, diagnosis, surveillance and response institution situated on the outskirts of Geelong, Victoria. As part of our research into themes of epidemiology and disease as part of our upcoming 2013 production at the CSIRO Discovery Centre, we visited AAHL and met with some of their most experienced staff over two days. AAHL works on a broad palette of animal health issues, ranging from those with potentially catastrophic economic impact, such as possible foot-and-mouth disease outbreaks in livestock, to issues whose impact predominantly concerns human health, including their high-profile discovery of and research into the Hendra virus. In the case of an outbreak, AAHL has the capacity to screen ten thousand samples per day, and offers laboratory space that operates at the highest level of biosecurity possible in order to work with pathogens of appalling lethality.

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We are very excited to announce the second major Boho project for 2012-13. Alongside our lecture theatre performance exploring concepts of Epidemiology and Network Theory, we will also be developing a new live game performance based on concepts of Climate and Social Modelling.

Over the last few years, Boho’s research into Game Theory, Network Theory and Complex Systems science has led us to a variety of strange and fascinating fields of research. Sometimes these branches of study are dead ends for us – they are highly abstract schools of thought with little application to our work, or they are extremely narrow sub-sub-disciplines which require extensive technical knowledge to comprehend, or they simply do not interest and excite us as artists and theatre-makers. One branch of contemporary science in particular, though, we have encountered time and time again since we first began research for A Prisoner’s Dilemma in 2006: the field of scientific modelling.

Image from Applespiel‘s Sexy Urban Design Team.

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