I just read this off of Amanda Palmer’s blog. In it, she discusses an experimental theatre project “Sleep No More” being run by the British theatre company Punchdrunk. Sleep No More is described as a combination of “The Shining, Macbeth, and Twin Peaks.” As awesome as that sounds, it gets much more interesting (from AFP’s post):
you don’t sit and watch actors. you wander around the space, alone (and wearing a mask) and you create your own experience.
actors come and go, events unfold. you can follow actors if you wish (they generally ignore you, but they will make contact occasionally),
or you can sit alone in a beautiful room filled with christmas trees until someone walks by you.
you can discover rooms nobody else is in and rifle through dusty papers and books.
there are rooms in asylums filled with bathtubs. there are fully landscaped gardens, there are rooms filled with dirt.
there is full nudity. there are lots of tuxedos and ballgowns. there is insanity. there is sexiness.
there is murder. there are moments where everyone winds up together and moments where you can watch the most intimate scenes play out between characters.
It’s not game-like in the sense that there is no “interactivity”, though there definitely is presence on the part of the audience. So, despite a lack of interactivity, there is still participation. Moreover, there is exploration and role-taking. Using classical definitions (say, Chatman), this can hardly be classified as narrative. So what is it? Well, it is performance art, but that ignores the problem.
We can think of types of games, performances, and stories which require some degree of role-taking (eg, clapping for Tinkerbell in Peter Pan plays). We can also think of performances which have an anonymous audience that wanders though a space in which some scene plays out (eg, spectator mode in some FPS games).