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ZU-UK launch Dramaturgy of Participation

Hotel Medea
Hotel Medea by ZU-UK – Photographer credit Ludovic Des Cognets

Creators of Hotel Medea have launched a unique methodology for immersive theatre and interactive technology, based on research and practice spanning over a decade.

Innovative, ingenious, challenging, life-enhancing … I think they’ll spawn a generation of practitioners with a spectacular range of tools and approaches that will radically infuse participatory theatre with energy and idealism” – Jude Kelly CBE, Artistic Director of the Southbank Centre

Drawing on 15 years of experience in the field, ZU-UK present a unique and rigorous methodology of practice for actors and theatre makers, constituting the first of its kind to focus on the growing trend of participatory and immersive performance. The techniques, based on work created since 1998 with Para Active and 2001 with Zecora Ura, and a broad range of educational projects in both the UK and around the world, are founded on the company’s three main approaches; Participatory Rituals, Immersive Environments and Interactive Game-Play, taking the in-depth experience of the company and opening out to the broader industry.

Dramaturgy of Participation examines the components and challenges of participatory work, looking at responsibility towards audiences, depth of experience, and the balance between facilitated participation and intense theatricality. The methodology also breaks down features of ZU-UK’s work in terms of craft in artistic details and technique in hosting audience members, and dissects the company’s commitment to a coherent and meaningful balance between ‘playable’ interaction and interwoven threads of narrative/performance.

The launch coincides with the company’s introductory article Dramaturgy of Participation, to be published by Palgrave this year as part of the book Framing Immersive Theatre and Performance, in addition to a series of events, conferences, and the creation of a new Masters Programme in partnership with UEL – MA Contemporary Performance Practices due to start September 2016. Jorge Lopes Ramos, Co-director of ZU-UK, has recently completed a PhD on the subject too, to be published later this year.

Speaking of the company, LIFT Artistic Director Mark Ball said, “ZU-UK have over recent years developed an important approach to immersive theatre making. From the vast experience their works strikes an important balance that is often difficult to achieve in immersive theatre: it provides audiences with a carefully crafted and deeply engaging experience whilst maintaining an intense theatricality and a commitment to the highest artistic standards. ZU-UK’s articulation of a methodology for performers in the field, as well as a design approach to a ‘Dramaturgy of Participation’ will have a positive impact in the field – for performers, makers and audiences.”

Dr Gareth White, author of ‘Audience Participation in Theatre’ (Palgrave); Senior Lecturer in Applied Theatre and Community Performance, CSSD, added. “ZU-UK are one of the most ambitious and provocative theatre companies working in Britain today. Hotel Medea is a seriously playful programme of cleverly structured chaos, showcasing their desire to return the spectator to the heart of a theatrical ritual tempered with contradiction and irony and a very contemporary sensibility.

Hotel Medea by ZU-UK
Hotel Medea by ZU-UK – Photographer credit Ludovic Des Cognets

Formerly known as Zecora Ura and Para Active, ZU-UK is an established, award winning and independent theatre and digital arts company based in both East London and Rio de Janeiro since 2001. Driven by an artistic partnership between Jorge Lopes Ramos and Persis Jade Maravala, ZU-UK aim to make transformational and unforgettable immersive art for the curious. As a British company that has successfully maintained a satellite base in Brazil for over a decade, ZU-UK has a strong track record of collaborating across cultures and artistic disciplines, delivering ambitious innovation with depth and integrity. The company have also led projects at UK HE institutions all over the country, including Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, UEL, East15, CityLit, Rose Bruford, Lincoln and Manchester University, in addition to international work in Canada, and Brazil. In 2015 the company also opened GAS Station in Stratford, a new space dedicated to projects, ideas and conversations that live somewhere in the intersection between Games, Live Performance and Technology.

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  • Neil Cheesman

    First becoming involved in an online theatre business in 2005 and launching londontheatre1.com in September 2013. Neil writes reviews and news articles, and has interviewed over 150 actors and actresses from the West End, Broadway, film, television, and theatre. Follow Neil on Twitter @LondonTheatre1

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