There is something invaluable about promenade performances. I am extremely fascinated by them. I am captured, challenged and emotionally involved. They are special. And yes, of course, every piece of good theatre can get to your heart in this way. However, there is a physical and spatial difference with promenade: the stage disappears. Spectators mix with actors and actresses and suddenly you are on stage. The boundaries of theatre are pushed and extended.
As I was growing up, the main theatre in my hometown used to host remakes of classic theatre shows. I love classics, I have done classical studies at high school but still. Theatre is not only remakes of past shows. Luckily enough, there is much more to be explored. I was growing up in a town, where if the author was not dead at least for 100 years, his shows weren't classic or relevant enough. Well, I know that there are other cultural centres which are not only looking back at the past. However, theatre tends to maintain its status and the distance with the audience.
That's why I find refreshing and stimulating to see a promenade performance. The first time I saw one was in a TV series. There is something ironic in seeing a promenade performance through a screen. You are still viewing the performance from a distance. Since that moment I've found myself searching for them at theatre festivals. Every one of these kind of shows has an element of surprise. It is fascinating to see actors interacting with a different environment. It is also very challenging and several things can go wrong.
The theatre experience is more varied and unique in these performances. Not everyone in the audience sees the same details and part of the story. Spectators can be personally addressed or they can be an intimate witness of private exchanges. The closeness is very challenging for the actors, who risk being influenced by their changeable audience and who must deliver an artificial performance.
As scary as it might be, actors and spectators are asked to commit themselves completely to the performance. There is very little control from behind the scenes and once it is started you can't predict what the results will be. Is this not real theatre? I think it is. I think is a theatre show that reflects upon and exposes its vulnerability. If we just stop for a moment and think about it, it's not just their vulnerability, it's our vulnerability.
Image: The setting for Wired Theatre's Dancing in the Dark at Brighton Fringe 2016.