As the future of events is still finding its shape, we look at which ingredients brands can adopt from immersive theatre to reconnect to audiences
Our Creative Director, Megan Kieran shares her thoughts…
Entourage specialise in live, immersive, interactive experiences. People, face to face with other people, living out a story. It’s a niche and we’re pretty proud of it.
While, like many others, the live element of our business has been put on pause, we’ve been reflecting on how much our work in the immersive theatre industry has since influenced and shaped our approach to designing hybrid, immersive experiences in the current climate.
Our immersive events involve putting the audience at the center of the experience and allowing them to choose, to interact with, and to live their own story. Since March, we’ve seen that how, what and where audiences consume experiences has changed, and so how we engage audiences has too.
As we enter lockdown 2.0 with some major zoom fatigue, we’ve been looking at how we develop authentic, at home experiences, that bring a healthy dollop of joy and magic (and break our screen hangovers).
While reviewing other models, we often came back to the same questions. How can this be made truly immersive? How can you let your audience live a story and be an active participant within the confines of online? How can we put audiences in control, but from the comfort of their own homes? How do we create the same sensations, the same levels of stimulation, or moments of surprise, wonder and delight that live audiences seek?
The first lockdown was a catalyst for some incredible cultural collaborations with brands that produced rapidly prototyped, interactive live experiences using the same digital tools that were allowing offices to work remotely. They were still on zoom, but they were guided by fun.
One of these was Nigel Barrett and Louise Marie, from pioneering cult performance collective Shunt, who partnered with Mesmer to bring their Party Skills for the End of the World: Lockdown Special to the Manchester International Festival. They used Zoom and various other online broadcasting systems to create a series of 300 person, online, immersive events, that included live performance and extensive audience interaction. Audiences were flipped between communal performances and live interactive skills rooms where they were taught the vital skills of how to create a party popper out of a balloon or how to look after homing pigeons
For 4 years we worked closely with Secret Cinema to produce some of their largest and most successful live immersive experiences. Over lockdown, their partnership with Haagen Dazs saw them create a series of interactive film evenings utilising Zoom, that included live performers appearing from home and interaction using the chat features. The activation recently took home 4 Drum Social Media Awards with the judges calling it ”a well rounded, smart, accessible campaign, with quality creative, … a strong use of channels … the final results proved success.”
There are a vast amount of creative partnerships offering virtual escape rooms. One of which, our team recently experienced, Plymouth Point’ a self produced experience created by fantastic theatre makers, Swamp Motel, where we navigated puzzles set across the internet to solve a mysterious disappearance, guided with a live actor on Zoom.
While the amazing creativity of these experiences brought us unbridled joy, we, like many other makers, still wanted to work out how to experience culture beyond a Zoom call in a time of restrictions.
We wanted more immersion and we wanted to reflect our lessons from our live shows into the design of at home experiences that would also retain legacy and impact IRL, post pandemic.
Give your audience choice
A magical element of live immersive shows is that the audience has agency and choice in when, and how, they engage with the characters, story and experience. Empowering people to pick and choose how they engage with content leads to audiences crafting their own bespoke experiences.
Suspend the disbelief
Immersive theatre audiences tend to come prepared to sink into a themed world. Online, this requires more work. Look at when the experience begins for the audience and how you are building the world you are inviting them in to. Consider multiple pathways or touchpoints to build narrative before the experience begins.
Seek interactive moments
Audiences are 50% more likely to retain an experience if they have interacted with it, rather than been a passive viewer. Create a more human digital connection by considering authentic ways that people can develop connections and relationships within an experience. Put your audiences in the story and give them a part to play to create feelings and emotional reactions.
Lead with the story
Follow with the technology. Using multiple channels or integrating tech into an experience can really create moments of surprise and blur lines to give a more immersive experience but using it just for technology’s sake, is jarring and has the opposite effect. Always lead with the story first and look at which tools are the best to creatively drive the experience and draw audiences into the fantasy.
A Game Changer
Alongside Entourage, we also run the Immersive Arts Network, a creative incubator programme for talented artists, theatre makers and creators working in the immersive field. We integrate this talent into our creative work for brand experiences, introducing brands to the next generation of culture and performance makers.
We have recently partnered with creative directors Tom Syms and Jack Pirie to create Unbound, a new interactive storytelling platform that offers a creative and theatrical approach to immerse audiences in an experience, without the need for physical presence.
it combines physical and digital elements, using the technology audiences already have, to create personalised, cinematic experiences and puts audiences at the centre, to play the part of the hero.
Unbound personalises each players’ story, based on their decisions and how they behave. Think immersive theatre meets choose your own adventure game. One that transcends physical barriers and transforms the player’s every day environment into a thrilling adventure story.
It allows us to connect with audiences across multiple touch points and allows access to analytics for each journey to see who has played and when.
For us, the creative possibilities of this platform reflected many of the key elements we use in the design of our live experiences and offered us an opportunity to create an equally immersive, exciting experience for audiences at home.The team has made a demo experience on the Unbound platform called ‘Sidekick’ for brands and companies to get a feel for what we could create together. More info and a chance to play can be found here: https://entourage.live/unbound/
Entourage is a boutique, immersive experience agency. Once referred to as the ‘M15 of the events industry’, they build worlds that tell extraordinary stories with a range of impressive clients. Since 2016 they have been the production partner for industry leading immersive practitioners Secret Cinema. With them, they have built multiple, immersive worlds in warehouses and fields for shows including Moulin Rouge, Romeo+Juliet, Blade Runner, Casino Royale & Stranger Things. For more info, go to https://www.entourage.live/