Extra-live is a new movement in theatre that embraces inclusivity by discarding the usual rules of theatre etiquette. This presents an exciting opportunity for venues to reach out to new audiences who currently find theatres intimidating.
The extra-live movement has grown out of 'relaxed' performances. Relaxed shows welcome audiences who might find it difficult or impossible to conform to the regular conventions of theatre 'etiquette'. The extra-live movement recognises that relaxing these rules and changing assumptions about how involved an audience can be has value above and beyond the obvious and important access benefits. Not only does this embrace a fundamental 'liveness' that is unique to theatre, it also has the capacity to break down other social and cultural barriers for potential audience groups that assume theatre is uptight, requires a strict code of conduct, is elitist or just isn't for them.
What is an extra-live performance?
Extra-live performances are conscious of the audience's presence and invite relationships between the audience, performers and venues in ways that step outside of the usual rules of theatre etiquette. This is not a new concept, rather it is a new name for something that has always existed. Many theatre forms are inherently extra-live. These include; pantomime, street theatre, interactive theatre, promenade, fooling, clowning and audience participation.
Audiences from bygone days were extra-live. They only became the silent invisible audiences we know today during the 19th Century. This has been attributed to Wagner, who insisted on silent audiences, but it could also have been due to artificial lighting allowing the stage to be brightly lit and the audience plunged into darkness. Either way, the silent audience is a relatively recent occurrence.
Extra-live performances take a laid-back approach to noise or movement coming from the audience. Latecomers are welcome, people can go to the toilet and if they make noise then there is no problem. This gives everyone permission to relax and respond naturally.
What makes an extra-live performance ‘extra-live’?
Extra-live performances are simple. The elements they should include are:
- A clear explanation for all audience members about what an extra-live performance is when they book.
- Pre-show information describing what to expect from the show.
- Staff who are aware it is an extra-live performance and take an inclusive approach from start to finish.
- An introduction at the start of the show to remind the audience that it’s an extra-live performance and that the performers are aware of this.
- A clear plan for how any complaints from audience members will be managed.
Frequently Asked Questions...
Q: Why provide extra-live performances?
A: Extra-live performances offer a way to reach new audiences, including people who might normally find theatres uptight and stuffy. The idea is that this is an opposing option to the Theatre Charter's ‘Code of Conduct’ for theatre goers (specifically ‘casual and future audience members’), which outlines expectations of behaviour during theatre performances. The movement is not suggesting that this type of theatre should not exist, but what Backstage in Biscuit Land refers to as "Uptight performances", are the current status quo and alternatives might help to tap into new audiences. Especially with younger people, which is imperative if we want to keep theatre alive.
Q: How is extra-live performances different to relaxed performances?
A: There are many similarities between extra-live and relaxed performances, but the main difference is that the relaxed movement is focused on making theatre accessible for people who might usually find going to the theatre stressful. The extra-live movement is focused on making theatre inclusive for people who might usually find the theatre exclusive and stuffy.
Q: Does every venue have to do extra-live performances in the same way?
A: While it’s important that the key principles of relaxed performances are consistent across venues, it will be great if theatres can develop their own house-style for delivering them.
Q: Should we introduce a performance as being extra-live at the start of the show?
A: Absolutely. It is essential that everyone knows what’s happening from the outset through a brief announcement, preferably by a performer, so that everyone can relax and enjoy the show.
Q: Will putting on an extra-live performance put people off?
A: This depends on how you market the show. They should have equal prominence in your marketing materials and be framed in a positive way - as an opportunity to watch a show in a relaxed atmosphere. Targeted outreach will help broaden your audience.
Q: What sort of work is suitable for an extra-live performance?
A: The simple answer is all work. People who benefit from extra-live performances come from diverse backgrounds and have varied tastes and interests, no work should be off limits.
Q: Should extra-live performances be only for people who don't usually go to the theatre?
A: Extra-live theatre might not be for everyone, but it welcomes everyone.
Q: How should we market our extra-live performance?
A: You should offer a brief description of what extra-live means, positively framing the potential benefits to all audience members, and explaining why you are interested in exploring this new movement as a venue.
Q: Should we charge less for an extra-live performance?
A: Discounting extra-live performances risks implying that they’re of a lesser quality when this is not the case. It is however important that appropriate concessionary rates are available to those on low incomes.
Q: Our theatre takes an extra-live approach already: do we still need to say it’s an extra-live performance?
A: It’s important for everyone in the audience to understand that they’re attending an extra-live performance for two main reasons. Firstly, so that everyone can benefit from the permission to relax. Secondly, so that everyone knows that they can expect additional movement and noise, so they can concentrate on the show rather than worrying about what else might be happening.
Q: How do I find out more?
A: You can read more about extra-live and the artists and venues already participating in the movement here.
Q: Which companies are making extra-live work?
· Kriya Arts - http://kriyaarts.co.uk/
· PIGDOG - http://www.wearepigdog.com/
· Xavier De Sousa - http://www.xavierdesousa.co.uk/
· Conney - http://coneyhq.org/
· Chris Harrison - http://www.haveyoulostme.com
Logo - Please feel free to download and use the logo.
 Shout if you enjoy theatre – why have audiences gone so quiet? Toby Parker-Rees, Guardian, Monday 5 August 2013
Also see this blog post about Extra-live