Gatecrash the stage with silent disco immersive theatre

By Kitty Knowles 29 February 2016
Gatecrashed Lyric Theatre London.

Opening at the Lyric Theatre, Gatecrash invites you to stop by a party, nosey through the bookshelves & tune in to different characters.

Gatecrash is set at a birthday party, but it’s a birthday party with a difference: Most of the attendees are audience member who’ve been invited along, and everyone’s got a set of silent disco headphones to tune into different storylines.

“Our audiences knock on the front door, step inside the four walls of our enclosed space and spend the duration of the next hour taking on the role of party gatecrashers,” explains director Toby Ealden, of Zest Theatre touring company.

“They are free to watch, stand, sit, dance, play games, eat, drink and rummage through drawers as they follow our five characters.”

“Some get cast as friends of our characters, whilst others become new found confidants and conspirators.”

“Just like a real party there is a lot going on with two scenes performed simultaneously throughout.”

Why silent disco?

The theatre company initially decided to experiment with silent disco headsets to overcome practical problems, says Ealden.

“We wanted it to feel like a real party, for the audience to make noise, sing and chat. We also wanted there to be music and for there to be dancing. But we didn’t want to mic the actors and amplify them over a PA system – it needed to feel like a real experience not a gig.

“During our research we were reminded of Silent Disco and were inspired.”

“Marrying immersive theatre and silent disco technology has created a unique experience.”

Gatecrash, Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, London.
Gatecrash, Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, London.

What’s the impact of the headsets?

While the Gatecrash crew aren’t the first to use headphones in theatre, they are breaking new ground.

“We think that we are the first to use Silent Disco tech to give audiences instant control over the content they listen to,” says Ealden. “Audiences can swap back and forth between content as much, or as little, as they like.

“They are in control of their entire experience: Gatecrash is pretty unique in that respect.”

Everyone’s experience is different, says Ealden.

“One lady sat on the sofa throughout the show and read a prop Heat magazine from cover to cover… other people clearly don’t want to miss out on anything.”

“My favourite moment in the show happens during a big dance off sequence: Amongst the hype and chaos of the party there is this private moment of emotion for the dedicated few to find.”

Gatecrash will run at the Lyric Hammersmith.
Gatecrash will run at the Lyric Hammersmith.

Embracing new audiences

Ealden hopes that the shows innovative use of technology will draw in new audiences.

“We wanted to engage those who don’t regularly attend the theatre, those who would say that theatre is irrelevant, stuffy or boring,” he says.

“Our target audience are digital natives who are used to communicating and controlling the world around them at a touch of a button.”

“The headsets are an intriguing and fun way of experiencing a piece of theatre and it is impossible to see all the content in the production in one viewing,” he adds.

“Our hope is that the excitement and euphoria that the show creates will lead to a thirst from our audiences to see more theatre.”

Zest Theatre company will perform Gatecrash at the Lyric theatre in Hammersmith, London, from 15-18 March.