Through their ‘Theatre Map of Wales’, launched in 2009 and running between 2010-11, National Theatre Wales developed a reputation for theatrical innovation. In their first season the company worked in a series of locations throughout Wales, producing thirteen shows, one per month, many incorporating mobile elements. By analysing the responses of audiences to five of these National Theatre Wales productions – Shelf Life (Swansea), For Mountain, Sand & Sea (Barmouth), The Weather Factory (Penygroes), Outdoors (Aberystwyth), and The Passion (Port Talbot) – this article questions what it means to ‘know the rules’, or otherwise, when taking part in located and promenade events. While participatory performances are frequently praised for offering experiential freedom, this is in tension with the awareness that theatre exists within a managed framework. This article demonstrates how an awareness of structural constraints can be experienced contemporaneously with pleasure taken in feelings of formlessness. It concludes by considering what it means when audiences talk about ‘getting’ a performance – in terms of understanding its potential, and appreciating its value – as well as what happens when they don’t.
- National Theatre Wales