Our Latest Innovation: Audience Seating

Darkness at the Sun Court | Slunglow’s Latest Innovation … SEATING!

Slung Low’s Artistic Director, Alan Lane talks us through the problems and possibilities of bums on seats… 

There are a couple of specific areas of what Slung Low does that I am keen to explore, the types of spaces that we make work for and the capacity of our audience. One of the many exciting things about the Converging Paths  project is that allowed me some serious time and space to investigate both.

The starting point for most if not all of the work of Slung Low over the last few years has been moving an audience around a space.

Which means I have often had a door problem. When you are moving an audience around you can only get them through a door (a normal type door) at a certain speed – and that speed is slow. If you are dealing with more than a dozen people it takes a considerable amount of time to get them through a door. And (because of the way we use sound and headphone technology) that means that the show, and crucially the fiction/the adventure has to stop for a bit- because the people in the front are through the door some time before the people at the back of the crowd, and the ways that queueing is exciting are limited and now you are into splitting the audience up in to groups and then you’ve got a real head ache.

A solution to all of this in the past has been to reduce the capacity of the audience, something that has allowed us to make some of the most exciting work in the past, and smaller numbers have meant a greater depth of fiction for each audience member (for example, getting on an antique bus in Mapping the City).
Whilst I am certain that this type of work will continue to be important to the company (because sometimes that’s the only way certain adventures can be shared) we naturally want as many people as possible to see the things we make. We’re proud of them, they take a lot of time and not a small amount of money and we want as many people as possible to enjoy them.
Large open spaces like the castles in Richmond and Pickering that we will be visiting later in the year allow us to explore making more ‘theatrical’ pieces to accommodate larger audiences because whilst they will still be moving around the largest door they’ll have to get through was designed to fit a number of men with horses.
But some spaces – like the glorious Sun Court at the Spa complex – are brilliantly dramatic places but seemingly impossible for the form of work that we’ve been making for the last few years. For a start there are too many doors. But also it’s already a brilliant auditorium: chequered floor, North Sea back drop and even a little stage. It would be perverse not to embrace some of the handsome nature of it. And moving more than a handful of people around the Sun Court is just not practical.
As the company has grown in the last few year more spaces like this have been offered to us and yet for a while it seemed like our ideas wouldn’t quite fit. Hence the embracing of this new innovative audience technique: chairs.
In Darkness at the Sun Court we have visual effects we’ve never before attempted, sub zero working conditions, the first piece with our new partners the choir, 24, and a whole host of things that we’ve never done before but genuinely the thing that makes me nervous is the audience sitting in chairs.
Contrary little bugger aren’t I …?

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