Guest Blog: Creating an Audience Collaborative Experience by Debra Watson

A playful, intimate piece of live-art, “Gimme, Gimme, Gimme More: Love!” is an audience-collaborative show about desire, sex and dating with your clothes on. It is a confessional about returning to dating at 50: dating apps, lying, sexting, disappointing dates, hot sex, overpromising and the rising popularity of anal.

The show mashes no-tech, low-tech and digital participation and plays with low-brow tropes of sing-alongs, dance-alongs and dress-tease. My favourite bits are when the audience share their stories with us via the projected anonymous ‘webchat’, which is central to the show, but non-obligatory.

The show piloted at The Brighton Fringe Festival 2016 and then played Impfest in full and at The Uncompromising Feminist Festival as a teaser.  We’ve been playing in ‘pop-up spaces’; bars, cabaret, halls, this is our first show in a black-box theatre . The Hotbed Festival of Sex is a perfect theme for us. Nothing like permissiveness to spur you on!

I am a participative theatre maker, facilitator and site-specific performer. I started the company Metaplay in 2005, focussing mainly on community work, often using Boal’s ‘Forum Theatre’ techniques to encourage active participation from audiences. Alongside this, I have been developing my own site-specific and performance works. I have become increasingly fasci
nated with the role that technology plays in our everyday life.

In developing the show, I was looking for a way of integrating the forum seamlessly into the performance space and using digital technology to create a space where the audience is actively involved as character/characters in the piece. I want their stories and input to count as a moral voice, as anecdoteand as a presence; like an updated, self-aware, Greek chorus.

I met my creative collaborator Sebastian Hau-Walker on a DRIFT residency run by ZU-UK. Sebastian has his own live-art and technology practice. I was piloting direct messaging, recordings and karaoke with audiences and playing around with the universal themes of love and loss. I initially I asked him to come and tech for me but I quickly realised that I wanted him on board as a creative-collaborator.

The first time I read the script draft to Sebastian, I was so embarrassed I couldn’t even look him in the eye. Luckily, we share a filthy sense of humour.  He has this way of giving me a dead-pan look and saying ‘That should definitely go in.’ Between Sebastian and The Gin an awful lot has passed my internal censor. (I can already hear the chorus of people who know me stifling a laugh at the prospect of me having an internal censor, but ‘Hey Hoy!’). In any case, I certainly have sympathy for the fact that not everyone wants to say the first thing that pops into their minds.

Sebastian had the genius idea of using a web-chat to give anonymity for audiences. I love the idea that you can be sitting right next to your partner or best friend and they will have no idea that it is you who just confessed to having spent three months pretending to be able to speak Spanish to impress a lover. Or that you once had sex in a taxi and told your girlfriend that the cab driver wasn’t watching. Or that your guilty pleasure is…

While the audience participation method was being developed and the show itself was still in embryonic stages, I went on Jamie Catto’s course, ‘What about you!” Jamie is interested in working with ‘the shadow self’. The ‘Gimme, Gimme, Gimme More’ platform was developed in his workshop. It does sound a bit greedy, but I think that that is a definitive part of our culture under the cosh of neo-liberalism. I think we are all better off when we ‘fess up’ and own our shit.

For the HOTBED Festival of Sex, we are expecting to attract a pretty open minded audience. We would love to integrate some audience questions into our show. Do you have any burning questions you were too afraid to ask?  Submit them anonymously here: https://goo.gl/forms/BDiKHHVpKu6Cr1Kt1 . We’ll use the best ones in our next show.

Gimme, Gimme, Gimme More: LOVE! plays at the Camden People’s Theatre, HOTBED Festival of Sex on the 25th April at 9pm.  Book here.