Over the last few years, members of TAG research lab have been collaborating with ZU-UK, a participatory theatre collective based in London, England, whose interactive performances situate audiences within the unfolding of actions and events.
ZU-UK are renowned for their distinctive personal, political and sometimes humorous approach to creating interactive performances. Known for their attention to detail, care and complete respect for audience members, the company are leaders in participatory theatre and performance art (read their full description here). Moreover, ZU-UK’s theatrical experiments often explore intersections between audience and performer through improvisation and interaction, encouraging the re-negotiation of traditional roles within theatre pieces. Their most recent and ongoing piece, Binaural Dinner Date invites participants into the spotlight, evoking intimacy and openness through a correlation of performed gestures and words, while simultaneously investigating contemporary dating expectations.
The collaboration between started in Spring 2017 when members of TAG and ZU-UK teamed up to create the first iteration of MISSING, a mystery game where players are asked to help search for a missing person, all the while being shadowed and sabotaged by unknown forces.
The prototype helped establish a framework and narrative for the first public iteration of the project which was held at Montréal’s Quartier des Spectacles in Fall 2018 for the KM3 festival. Before playing MISSING/DISPARU, participants were provided with the following information:
MISSING is a game for one player. You are the player. You are also a shadow. You have simple instructions. Your time is limited. Others can see you.
You are close to your objective. Then the objective is not what you thought it was. You are not where you thought you were. The game has changed. You can keep playing, but you can’t start again. Because you know too much now.
MISSING is a prolonged interaction between three things – a world, its rules and the people in it. It explores ways of re-experiencing public and private spaces in the city.
Over two days, over twenty members of the public had the opportunity to experience MISSING in both French and English. The experience involved several actors, voices, ‘lookers’, and coordinators collaborating to provide players with objectives and instructions needed to find the missing person and uncover the truth.
In February 2019, TAG members were invited to present research and work at a symposium in the UK called Scaling Intimacy in Theatre and Games. TAG co-founders Bart Simon and Lynn Hughes each presented 5-minute micro talks with a focus on how games can be used to scaffold safe spaces in which social change and intimacy can occur.
The symposium also featured a play session with several projects including Pict.io, a collaborative game for humans and machines based on the popular drawing game Pictionary, made by TAG members Julia Zamboni, Luciano Frizzera and Julia Salles.
In the days following the symposium, TAG and ZU-UK had an intensive game design workshop at the Stratford Shopping Center in East London to brainstorm how MISSING could be incorporated into a shopping mall environment. The workshop allowed TAG and ZU to develop a framework that could potentially be used in malls around the UK and Canada. Following this, TAG and ZU-UK were happy to announce that they had been granted a major SSHRC partnership grant to continue developing projects together. Read more about the next steps here and stay tuned for more announcements!