Smashing through the Fourth Wall: Theatrical teachings on immersive experience

“I love acting. It’s so much more real than life.” - Oscar Wilde

Welcome to an experience based economy:

According to our Youth Culture Uncovered Report, one in three young people want brands to provide them with more experiences. It’s a trend recognised worldwide as experiential marketing spend is estimated to increase 11% globally this year. This is especially important for the youth who not only prioritise spending their time at these experiences, but also their money, with over half saying they’re spending more on events and experiences than ever before. In contrast to previous generations, more concerned with material possessions, we are now part of an experience based economy. Arguably driven by social media, there is a want to be seen as interesting people who do interesting things. As a result young people crave rich experiences to express this. According to Dylan, a member of our LOVE Network “ It’s all about the places you go, the people you meet and the experiences you have.”

All the world’s a stage: Immersion for the masses

An interesting illustration of this trend is seen with the steady growth of immersive theatre. It attempts to integrate audience and actor, removing the concept of ‘us and them’. New York’s McKittrick Hotel plays host to the world famous ‘Sleep No More’, by theatre company Punchdrunk, an immersive interpretation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth taking place across several floors. Participants are invited to wander through the hotel, choosing which narratives to follow. The only thing separating actor from viewer being the iconic white masks given to viewers on entry. Keeping things suitably Shakespearean, this year London was host to Collab theatre’s new show ‘Montagues and Capulets’, a 90’s, rave focussed interpretation of Romeo and Juliet where the audience are encouraged to take part as members of either rivalling family. Similarly, The Great Gatsby in Dublin’s Gate Theatre is designed to blend audience and actor, and encourages viewers to come dressed for the decade.

Seeking (Alternative) Stimulation: The young and the restless

Despite living in a time of constant distraction, young people are often bored. They’re overstimulated which has increased their tolerance for what they find entertaining. A global research study into the future of storytelling showed that young people crave the ability to be further immersed within a story world, and these immersive experiences provide this, as well as a welcome dose of escapism. A wonderful example of a brand providing this was seen this week with Disney’s announcement at its D23 expo that it would be opening an immersive Star Wars hotel, where each employee will be in costume and in character, and each guest will receive their own storyline. In a Westworld inspired turn of events, it encourages fans to not only watch the story - but actively take part in it.. Orchard Thieves also illustrates this brilliantly. In their second year, the brand have rewritten the rules for their activation at Electric Picnic, Ireland’s largest festival, with their current recruitment to hire fans to fill hilarious roles to staff their Bold mOTel.

Brand Take Outs:

Immersive experiences need to allow young people to cross the line from being the consumer of a product, to being a contributor of its brand narrative and inhabitant of its world.

  • Smash through the fourth wall: When it comes to creating truly ‘immersive’ experiences, brands need to work to create ones that consumers can contribute to. A great example of this is Hendricks Chambers of the Curious. This immersive, travelling service where participants undergo a range of exhilarating experiments, intended to reawaken consumers’ curiosity. Using binaural sound experience, a 3D soundscape takes guests on a journey into their own mind and beyond.