Task 2: Research relating to the purpose of performance and engaging audiences

Different stages of configuration

Theatre in the round / Arena Stage

Has the audience in a shape (circle, square or triangle) around the actors who will be performing in the middle. They have no backstage so they have to come through spaces left in between the seats of the audience or a place under the stage. Those are called “vomitoriums”. Providing larger scenery is particularly more difficult because of not having a backstage. The audience can see each other, which is great as it might make laughter contagious and there is all sorts of emotional sharing between the audiences. The actors always have their back turned to a part of the audience so they have to engage a lot more and the fourth wall is often broken.

                                                                                                                     Cockpit Theatre, Marylebone

Thrust Stage

It protrudes so that the audience can watch in a semi-circle shape around the stage, having a more intimate relationship with the actors like theatre in the round while they still have access to backstage like proscenium theatre. Since it is viewed in a semi-circle, while planning scenery the views of all sides must be kept in mind.

                                                                                                                              Globe Theatre, London

Proscenium arch theatre

It is the most common type of theatre. The audience is all placed on one side and actors perform on stage which has wings to its left and right. Some proscenium arch theatres have an apron that protrudes to make it a little bit more like thrust theatre. It is used for fourth wall breaking because proscenium is the least intimate form of theatre.

                                                                                                              Paramount Theatre, California

Traverse theatre

It’s a form of catwalk as it separates the crowd in two: bottom and upper. It’s an amazing type of theatre for gangs/teams/rivalries or confrontation in general as it makes one side of the crowd feel like it’s against the other. The actors may come in from either of the sides, the left or the right.

                                                                                              Ngau Chi Wan Civic Centre, Hong Kong

Promenade theatre

Promenade theatre is a sub-genre of site-specific theatre which is usually performed in a place that wasn’t originally meant as a theatre location. Promenade theatre has the actors take the audience with them and the actors must stay in character during the whole time. The audience must agree to go through whatever is suggested before this performance.



Immersive theatre

In which, as a member of the audience, you are given a role, small or big, in the performance and perform it however you want to. You are free to move around or even skip scenes by walking through another door. The actors must adapt to how the person acts. Audience must sign a contract where they are acknowledging and accepting what they might do. And there has always got to be a way to just safely end the act because some people might get too anxious.


                                     “Sleep No More” by Punchdrunk

Purposes of performance and engaging an audience

There are different ways of interpreting a story, or a narrative. Let’s for example take the fairy tale of Little Red Riding Hood. Everyone knows about the story of how the little girl goes to deliver a basket with food to her grandmother but she quickly finds that her grandmother is actually a wolf in disguise. The wolf then eats her but quickly after a hunter comes and saves her and her grandmother who was eaten by the wolf as well. Quite a simple and easy story which could be told to children. The Company of Wolves is a similar story with a completely different image. There is a lot of gore and a lot of symbolism. In the end the child ends up befriending the wolf who throughout the film she has trusted, tried to run from and even tried to kill. Sexual references are also present, and that is something that the first version would not even dream of having because it is meant for children.

You can present performances through various different media. You could make it into a film and present it through TV, or the internet. You could also present a recording of a live performance through TV, but these are much rarer to appear on television. A radio could be used for performances that involve only speaking and no visuals, for example a stand up comedian can be listened to and be just as much fun as if being watched and listened to. But the most interactive way of performance is still a live performance, which might not make as much money as a movie, but some people think that it is more fun to not only watch but to also act in. A live performance at a theatre is a one take performance though, and many mistakes are still made and it is never perfect. While if it’s a film, you can cut and redo the scene until it looks just like the director wants. And obviously an immersive theatre experience could be fun to watch, but the whole point of it is to be immersed in it and be part of it, not watch someone else be part of it.

The theatre configuration that is used the most for education is promenade because you can be taken through a town tour and be told of all the historical figures and the history of the town. While the others can be used for educational purposes as well, like Joan, Babs and Shelagh too which was performed in proscenium arch theatre. It mostly depends on the performance, promenade theatre on the other hand, invites itself to be educational and take you around and tell you some history.

Theatre in the round, thrust stage, proscenium arch theatre and traverse theatre all have similar kinds of “contract” between the performers and the audience. If the show is done in the theatre and you have to buy a ticket to be able to watch it then you are signing a contract for “I will pay to be entertained”. While if it is not done in the theatre and instead it is done in the street, like we will have to do for our commission performances, you have to take a lot more things into consideration. First of all people aren’t going to be paying so you will have to captivate your audience and keep them interested because they can leave at any time, as they are just passers-by. In a street performance you must also take into account your audience. In all of the stage configurations you should take your audience into account as the way the audience reacts is based on the knowledge they have. Lynn gave the example of Helena not being able to appreciate some musicals because the dancing is so bad she can’t move past that and keeps thinking how they could have done it better. Helena is a professional dancer and noticing these mistakes is distracting for her, while Lynn would be able to appreciate the good acting and wouldn’t mind the small mistakes in dance moves because she wouldn’t notice them. In our case it is more about the age of your audience. There will surely be children around the streets and you can’t just tell them to go away and not look. So all you can do is adapt and make your performance children-friendly. Promenade theatre invites you to go around with the performers so your contract involves going to wherever the actors go. Immersive theatre is the most demanding of the audience’s contract. You are subjecting yourself to act with the performers and whatever it is that happens you have to go along with it. Gem skii pushes the limits of this even further by having the audience go through a medical test and the ones who are able, take a pill that makes them swell, sweat and they get extremely hot and uncomfortable. She also has people waterboard her. This is really verging on the limits of what the performers can get the audience to do, and obviously the medical quiz is part of the contract.

There are a few crucial positions that are necessary to make theatre work. Firstly, the most important one are the performers. If there are no performers, there is no show. Performers can still improvise without a writer, director or anyone else. While the writer can’t be an actor, unless they are qualified for that or the show is meant to be a disaster. Everything revolves around the performers, they are the vital part of a performance, they’re the ones you will be watching. Now to make a decent show, or performance you need the other crucial positions. A writer is necessary to actually devise a story that you can perform, unless your performers will be redoing something that is already done. Unless it’s a silent film (and even silent films have some sort of music), a musical director is important to develop the correct music to go along with what the writer wrote. He will know what is the most appropriate for which scenario. The choreographer and musical director work alongside each other in multiple occasions because the choreographer will devise the dance moves that will be applied at each point in the songs, if so required. A musical would definitely need a choreographer. A director is the one who will be telling the performers what kind of acting looks best, where they should be at what times, he will devise the blocking and he will be the one organizing everything and putting it all together. In the end you need someone who will help your team with marketing and sponsorships and everything that is necessary, which the producer would also be working on. But, if you collaborate with a company everything becomes easier. Partnerships can lead to funds, which lead to more shows, which lead to more money for everyone involved.

Companies will partner with the team of performers in order to gain more money, but this is also very beneficial for the people involved in the performing team. The company will help with anything that is relevant to that company. So, for example, Pulse Festival Ipswich is associated with Gecko, a physical theatre company. They would probably provide with performers, training, rehearsal space, choreographers and whatever they can provide in exchange for sharing sponsorships or sharing a certain amount of profits.



Theatre in the round



Traverse theatre


Thrust stage


Proscenium arch theatre


Promenade theatre


Immersive theatre



One thought on “Task 2: Research relating to the purpose of performance and engaging audiences”

  1. Task 2: This is a really engaging piece of work – very readable and informative. The photographs you have chosen to illustrate your different theatre configurations are apt and clear. The sections about the effect of choosing each of them is informative. I’m delighted that you made connections between the task and the different shows/films that you have seen recently.
    Your writing style is clear and your English is excellent. Well referenced.


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