Playing with Intimacy and Intensity | The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama

Playing with Intimacy and Intensity

Playing with Intimacy and Intensity

Funded by the AHRC’s Research Networking Scheme, this project brings together an international group of practitioners, academics and practitioner-academics to share ideas and working methods of playfully inviting audiences to engage in challenging activity as part of performances.

Performance culture is changing. There is a turn towards playful invitations to intense and intimate encounters, that is proving popular with both artists and audiences. Audiences are being drawn into rich and sometimes risky experiences in the middle of performance, rather than at a safe spectatorial distance, often through structured games or playful provocations. The diverse work that is going on in theatre, live art, dance, gaming and applied arts can be seen as a dynamic but diffuse project of research and development into interaction, involvement and encounter, and into what play and performance can become in contemporary culture.

This project, led by Central’s Gareth White (PI) and Bruce Barton (CI) from the University of Calgary, strengthens connections between these disciplines, to enhance shared understanding in the sub-disciplines of participatory performance that are emerging in each case, and thus to stimulate new directions of enquiry in practice and theory.

This network brings together those who explicitly and implicitly research playfully intimate and intense participation, involving artists, academics and artist-academics across and between the intersections of art forms and academic disciplines, to stimulate shared insight and highly productive reflection on the artistic potential and ethical complexities of this work. The network proposed is an international group of scholars, artists and scholar-artists with expertise in creating and theorising performance practices across this range of art forms and academic disciplines, with proven ability to achieve high quality and high impact outcomes in writing and performance.

These changes to performance culture are happening now, and the growth of participatory performance across international cultural industries shows no sign of abating. The urgency of this research is that interdisciplinary practice-oriented research, involving practitioners and theorists from across intersecting art forms and disciplines with the deeper understanding it will bring, is needed to enhance and drive innovative practical responses to the complex ethical and aesthetic challenges of intimate and intense participation.

The project begins with a performance Lab, attended by network members from across the world, at Jackson’s Lane in London. A second Lab will take place in the autumn, along with a one day open conference, sharing the experiences of the network and inviting other experts (producers, critics, audiences, as well as practitioners and scholars) to share their perspectives. 


Learn more about Lab 1