Tag Archive | "Blast Theory"

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Blog: Let’s talk about money

Posted on 29 November 2013 by Eleanor Turney


I think most people will have read Bryony Kimmings’s angry and honest blog about money by now. If you haven’t, do. She has asked that other people join in the conversation, and we at AYT agree that these are important conversations to be having.

I’ve done a small round-up of some of the posts in response to Bryony or around the topic below. Please add others, either by linking to them in the comments or by emailing me: eleanor [at] ayoungertheatre [dot] com. If you want to send me your own experiences for publication, please do – send a Word document with your post, along with a photo and a two-line biography of you/your company.

We want to hear from you.

You can also join the conversation on Twitter – @ayoungertheatre, @eleanorturney or on the hashtag #illshowyoumine.


Sam Scott Wood from ArtsAdmin has done her own round-up, which you can read here.

Bryony Kimmings’s original post

BAC’s David Jubb wrote a piece here

Maddy Costa‘s piece is here

Our very own Filskit Theatre blogged here

Emily Coleman wrote a piece here

Blast Theory‘s Matt Adams blogged here

Xenia Pestova‘s piece is here

Slung Low‘s Alan Lane blogged here

Hannah Nicklin‘s relevant post about working in the arts is here

Anna Beecher‘s piece is here

Amelia Bird offers a venue’s perspective here

Bryony Kimmings’s update is here

Chris Johnston’s How Not to Get Rich is here

Marcus Romer wrote some thoughts earlier in the year here

Andy Field‘s blog is here

Leo Burtin wrote a lovely piece here

Michelle Walker blogged here

Owen Calvert-Lyons wrote us another venue’s perspective here

Louis Barabbas wrote two interesting pieces about the music sector here and here

Gavin Stride‘s shared some thoughts here

Jade Cayton thinks about “the emergents” here

Daniel Bye‘s written a piece here

Photo by Flickr user Images_Of_Money under a Creative Commons Licence.

Eleanor Turney

Eleanor Turney

Eleanor Turney is the Managing Editor of A Younger Theatre, as well as a freelance journalist, writer and editor. She has written for The Guardian, The Stage, The FT and Ideas Tap, and worked for the Poetry Society and the British Council.

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Guest blog: Blast Theory takes on Manchester

Posted on 25 September 2013 by Conori Bell-Bhuiyan

My Neck of the Woods: A live stream from the young people of Manchester, telling our stories and asking our questions.

blast theory

Last weekend a group of six young people – including me – took to the streets of Manchester decked out in all manner of cables and kit-bags and carrying video cameras around with us – and yes, we got a few weird looks. The cameras were streaming live, straight to a website run by digital arts group Blast Theory and this was our opportunity to show people our neck of the woods, through our eyes. Between the six of us we had three live streams going for two hours a night for people playing online – either from home or from consoles set up at the Royal Exchange theatre – to pick from and interact with.

From the My Neck of the Woods website those people could ask us questions, we could ask them questions, and we could even invite people into a one-to-one conversation where we could have much more in-depth discussions about anything ranging from future career paths to what the adequate jail time was for killing an alien… and that was just on my stream. No two conversations were the same and a simple question could lead to a surprisingly insightful discussion with a complete stranger. I got some great advice about what I should do when I go to university plus a few good travel tips thrown in the mix. This kind of event could be described as ‘digital performance’, ‘online game’, ‘live documentary’ or ‘digital theatre’, but in truth the concept was very simple. All we were doing was telling the real stories of our lives and talking about the real decisions we, as young people, have to make right now.

We were trying to create a connection – an intimacy – with online viewers who we never actually got to see (even though they could see us) by letting them in on our lives, and asking them to tell us about their own, all the while talking straight into a camera lens. It took a few rehearsals to get used to that part. The performance itself took place over two nights, and saw us scattered all over the city. From our base at the Royal Exchange we went out with our cameras to show you our favourite places, the cafés we go to, our houses and kitchens, our childhood dens, our old schools, the place where a first kiss happened or the place where a regrettable decision was made.

I got involved in this project after a very exciting email appeared in my inbox. It was from the Royal Exchange Theatre and it was about a project they were running with Blast Theory as part of Manchester’s involvement in the Truth about Youth programme. In the email was an idea for an online performance event that Blast Theory wanted to be created with and by young people. I love anything that experiments with the internet as a medium, so I emailed back straight away – originally planning to be involved in running the technical aspect of putting together a show like this – but once I was part of the project I found I was getting pulled more and more into the performance side of things… and next thing you know my debut live performance was being streamed live over the internet for the entire world to see!

My Neck of the Woods isn’t Blast Theory’s first online endeavour by any means. The digital arts group has mastered the live online gaming experience with previous projects like I’d Hide You and You Get Me also fusing interaction, internet participation and live streaming cameras into a full experience. If anyone is interested in getting involved in future works by Blast Theory, I’d advise you to keep an eye on its website – it’s one of those groups that never stops moving and always has something on the go, so volunteers will always be welcome.

For me, this project was an amazing experience. Aside from everything I’ve learnt about how digital performance works, how the substantial amount of equipment involved works, how a single idea can develop into a two-night-long performance and of course, how to act natural in front of a camera… I’ve also met some brilliant people and made some great connections with artists and performers both. Blast Theory got completely behind us young people and pushed us to tell our own stories in what turned out to be an event unlike anything I’ve ever done before.


Conori Bell-Bhuiyan

Conori Bell-Bhuiyan

Conori Bell-Bhuiyan is a student and arts and culture blogger from Manchester. She wants to end up working as a journalist somewhere warm, and she loves anything artsy, off-beat or slightly wacky.

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Review Edinburgh Fringe: A Machine to See With

Posted on 31 August 2011 by Lois Jeary

The Fringe presents plenty of opportunities for audiences to pretend to be someone else, but when wearing the shoes of another where would you draw the line? Blast Theory’s A Machine to See With casts you in the lead role of a heist movie, making you confront how far you will go in the name of art, and to what extent an individual can be held responsible for their actions.

From the moment your mobile phone rings with your first instructions, a faceless, nameless figure guides you around Edinburgh, narrating your journey with an epic, cinematic perspective. You form an odd relationship with the voice on the other end of your phone, never quite trusting his motivations and yet submitting to his every instruction. Not that he holds your hand as you go about your mission – in fact, A Machine to See With is quite brave in only taking the audience so far, forcing them to find their own feet or way out of problems so that more than once you feel oddly vulnerable. It’s an unusual sensation in a piece of interactive, digital theatre, but crucial for creating the emotions of the piece and taking ownership of your own destiny.

This type of site-specific work makes you think differently about your surroundings and the people you pass in the street. Suddenly you search for recognition in the face of anyone looking furtive, or indeed lost, on a mobile phone, but unfortunately this is where the experience disappoints. It gradually dawns on you that despite being encouraged to find familiarity or threats in the faces of others, you really are on your own, and again that feeling of isolation creeps in. There are a few, powerful moments of actual interactivity with the city around you when the thrill of the heist movie really comes alive, but with a little less emphasis on going on a guided walking tour and more direct interactive experiences the encounter would be even stronger.

The flexibility of the narrative to respond to events in the real world is essential to the individual’s experience of A Machine to See With. In the main, it was difficult to tell exactly how the audience response directly shaped the progress of the action; however when a spanner was thrown into the works, as must be expected when dallying in the criminal underworld, the drama quickly changed course and the tension was ramped up a gear. As the heist reaches its climax your heart starts to race and you question: are they really expecting me to do this?

A Machine to See With encourages you to confront who you are by playing at being another person entirely, and by the end you may well have surprised yourself at what you are capable of. The journey may be mapped out for you, the scenario thrust upon you, but the thrill is all your own.

Blast Theory’s A Machine to See With runs as part of the British Council Edinburgh Showcase 2011 at St George’s West from 24-28th August.

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The Theatre of the Future: A Digital Revolution

Posted on 03 February 2011 by Jake Orr

Back in 2009, I wrote an article proclaiming that a technology revolution had taken place and finally theatre was embracing a digitalised medium – and us as the audience could no longer ignore it. Since then, there have been increasing amounts of experimentation, delivery of high-tech multi-million pound productions and a blurring of the boundaries/lines between theatre, film and media. Technology meeting theatre is here, and companies such as Pilot Theatre, Proto Type Theatre, and Blast Theory, to name but a few, are increasingly bringing digitally-minded audiences into a new, technology-driven form of theatre.

As technology has been developing over the past few years, we’ve also seen our everyday activities rapidly integrating technology. The mobile phone, which would once bring us voice calls and text messages, now has the power to make us connected at all times through the Internet and video calling. Equally the internet has revolutionised entertainment in our homes: where once upon a time we’d dial-up, now we’re connected at super broadband speeds allowing us to download packets of data instantly.

Technology might have been invading our homes and our theatres, but there was little movement in seeing theatre being channelled back into our homes utilising technology. 2010 saw the launch of Digital Theatre, a pioneering experiment that digitally captured some of the UK’s highly sought after theatre from companies and theatres such as The Almeida, The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) and The Royal Court presenting them in a downloadable format. I for one was taken aback by this sudden ability to have theatre on my laptop, on my TV(connecting laptop to TV monitor), in the kitchen or just about anywhere I saw fit. Naturally, Digital Theatre was hailed as revolutionary but also greeted with mild amusement at the thought of theatre in your home on demand.

Since Digital Theatre’s launch, a niggling feeling has been eating away at me. If theatre organisations were keen to get their audiences to view their work more widely and when they wanted to, surely there must also be companies wanting to give a more personal theatrical experience in your home. The first sign of things to come crept up rather unnoticed in the form of Tim Etchells’s A Short Message Spectacle (SMS) presented at the Norfolk and Norwich Festival in May 2010. By giving over your mobile number, as an audience you were suddenly jolted into Etchells’s poetic if slightly psychedelic clown-infested world via text messages. The beauty of SMS was its unpredictability, the sudden engagement you would have upon receiving messages, thrusting you back into the narrative regardless of time or location.

The action of delivering a text message may have been minimal, but it was Etchells’s ability to invade his audience’s minds through a device which has rarely been used as the sole staging of a piece. Were we moving towards theatre invading our everyday lives? Etchells had planted a seed and it was only a matter of time before the next experiment would take place.

Next was Such Tweet Sorrow, the reworking of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet for a modern teen audience, in a collaboration between The RSC and Mudlark. Using the platform of Twitter, each character had a profile, and the story would unfold in real time. You can read my thoughts here, but on a personal level, it failed. What it showed, though, was a move towards drama with epic stories transcending the stage, into our everyday lives. Twitter was the platform, and as the majority of its users connect whilst on the move, Such Tweet Sorrow had the ability to bring the drama into your life, regardless of location. Who needs the theatre when the theatre is coming to you?

Whilst Such Tweet Sorrow might have missed the trick of integrating technology, drama and a mobile platform in a single existence, Blast Theory proved it had what it takes in Ivy4Evr. As an initial pilot between Blast Theory and Channel Four, Ivy4Evr was an interactive SMS drama, where you were not only connected (through your mobile) with Ivy, a young teenager dealing with sex, drugs and boys, but also had the ability to communicate with her. Using a computer that analyses the response from text messages received, Ivy has the ability to respond directly and individually to each audience member beginning conversations and plot developments all through messages sent back and forth. As a piece of interactive drama it was outstanding, revealing a compelling story of teenage life. Yes it was aimed at teenagers with an educational slant, but it has revolutionised my thinking about mobile personal theatre.

These uses of technology to develop theatre audiences are inventive, fun and are truly pushing the boundaries between conventional theatre and us as an audience, connected globally and remotely from theatre spaces. 2011 is already shaping up to be a year of technological performances for theatre, where both Digital Theatre and Blast Theory are presenting new work for a digitally minded audience.

The Internet has revolutionised our engagement with the world, and whilst we can watch videos of shows uploaded onto YouTube (copyright permitting), and can go to the cinema to watch The Met Opera or National Theatre beam theatre around the world, we have yet to experience theatre from different countries in the comfort of our homes and of an excellent standard. Gulf Stage, a project with Digital Theatre, The British Council and Qatar, sees the beginnings of this development of international theatre for an international audience. Last year, Qatar hosted the Gulf Co-operation Council Youth Theatre Festival, a youth-led theatre festival with countries such as UEA, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait presenting six original productions. Digital Theatre captured each of these productions and working with The British Council, is now presenting them free to watch online through the Digital Theatre website.

What are the chances of me going to the Gulf to see theatre? Very minimal. Whilst some large-scale theatres such as The Barbican produce international work, there is little theatre from the Middle East entering our theatres. Gulf Stage, however, will allow us to watch a series of shows of a professional standard from the comfort of our homes – for free. The British Council is breaking down those boundaries of cultural differences, and allowing a global audience the chance to view theatre without traveling the globe to do so. The future of international theatre? It could well be.

Finally I want to return to Blast Theory and its continued engagement in creating theatre that engages its audience individually within the unconventional theatrical setting. Whilst the Sundance Film Festival might not be on my usual agenda for theatre viewing, it just so happens that Blast Theory’s latest work, A Machine To See With, is being given its grand unveiling to a cinematic audience. It is being described as an “interactive heist movie”, where the audience plays the lead character. Signing up for the production sees your mobile phone going off upon reaching a set destination. in which a 45 minute series of events take place, led by a voice over the phone. As the protagonist, you must deal with a bank robbery and its aftermath on the streets of Salt Lake City.

It sounds like a farfetched idea, but considering its placement within the Sundance Film Festival, the action thriller aspect conveys exactly what film audiences can easily immerse themselves in. A Machine To See With is another great example of digital theatre, which puts you as an audience member into the heart of the drama using a mobile device. If it ever comes to the UK I’ll be leaping at the chance to take out a bank robber or two… or maybe just a few bankers!

Is theatre in the middle of a digital revolution? I think the answer is obvious: yes.

Jake Orr

Jake Orr

Jake is the Artistic Director and Founder of A Younger Theatre. He is a freelance writer and blogger, a theatre marketer and a digital producer. He is also Co-Curator of Dialogue.

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