Extra-live is a new name for an ancient thing. It's exciting, isn't it, when something gets named that's been around forever. Not that I'm religious, but can you imagine being there at the start, going around naming all the things around you and then realising how nuanced it'll be possible to get and becoming obsessed with dissecting things and looking at it all from different angles, giving new names to each aspect. What a delight, therefore, to be present when the naming of something occurs, and the thing being named is as old as time.
What was named is a type of performance that is audience conscious. Think pantomime, or street theatre, stand-up comedy, the narrator, the compère. It is also those moments in theatre when the performance becomes aware of the reality of the room. For example if someone forgets their lines and an actor starts to ad lib, or someone corpses, or throws an aside to the audience, or something occurs that shouldn't, like the set falling down. Audiences live for these moments. It's the danger, the frisson, the bit we loved best about the show.
Until now there hadn't been a name for this. There were ways of explaining it, like I just did, or Chris Goode once came up with the explanation of the 'Cat Test'...
“The Cat Test can perhaps best be thought of as a development of the old miners’ practice of using a canary to test for the presence of carbon monoxide. (Not to be confused with the ‘pop’ test for carbon dioxide, for which you insert a lit canary into a test tube, etc.) The Cat Test discloses liveness: an ordinary domestic cat is released into the midst of a theatre event, and if the event can refer to and/or accommodate the cat without its supporting structures breaking down — the structures of the event, not of the cat — then the event is said to be ‘live’.”
Seen as the show in question is still a live event, whether they deal well with a cat in the midst of things or not, suggests that an additional term or name is required for when a cat is successfully incorporated. This is where extra-live is useful.
The term was coined by the director Max Barton at Devoted and Disgruntled 2015 and then galvanised at a following open space event the next day held at BAC called Backstage in Biscuit Land, What Next? Initially it was coined whilst looking at ways of developing 'Relaxed Performances' with a view to opening up the autistic focus of these to a wider audience. Subsequently Touretteshero ran with the idea of relaxed performances being for all and decided to continue building on the work already in place around this terminology. But this left us with having named an aspect of relaxed performances, because relaxed performances do to tend to be extra-live in nature, but we weren't sure what to do with it next.
And that's pretty much where we are now. When I began creating HIP I knew I wanted to create an extra-live performance, where the audience are key, and then I started thinking about the content of the piece. The architecture is more important in this case than the content. Now I'm already thinking about the next way to do this. How can I create interfaces with the audience that open up safe spaces where they can take time out of the hullaballoo of life to pause for a moment to breath, think and reflect. We are living in pulsating times and it seems to me that a passive audience is no longer relevant or even appropriate. I believe it's time for everyone to get stuck in and create this show together.