Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Becki Haines: Remote

By | Published on Thursday 14 April 2016


Interactive theatre creators Coney have been responsible for some truly modern, innovative and clever stuff, so I always prick up my ears when I hear they’ve got something new in the pipeline.
Next week they’ll begin a run of one of their latest theatrical experiences, ‘Remote’, over at Camden People’s Theatre. To find out more about the show, and chat a bit about the company, I spoke to executive producer Becki Haines.

CM: Tell us about ‘Remote’. What happens in the play?
BH: ‘Remote’ is an interactive game that you play sitting down. You’ll be in a theatre, in a seat, there will be a stage. But you, the audience, are co-creators, and you’ll vote to make choices and determine where the story goes. ‘Remote’ is set in the future, and follows a central character through a world which is now run by a computerised system ‘Remote’; helping the city you live in become the city of your dreams. You’ll play the game and decide the outcome. There’s no way not to play. There’s no way not to vote.

CM: Where does the show take us and what themes does it explore? Is it politically motivated?
BH: Imagine you’re in a theatre of the future, powered by an algorithm. REMOTE is interrogating the politics of choice, and decision-making in an immaterial world, saturated with technology.

CM: How did you devise it? How does the company’s creative process work?
BH: ‘Remote’ is created by Coney; we create interactive games and adventures where the audience can choose to take a meaningful part. Coney HQ is led by director Tassos Stevens and me – I’m executive producer.

HQ then powers a network of artists and makers who create work as Coney, including twelve associates who are leaders and experts in their field and contribute to the company manifesto. Representing Coney for ‘Remote’ are Tassos Stevens, Kieran Lucas, Gemma Brockis, Tom Lyall, Angela Clerkin & Rei Poh. They have been in rehearsals through March and April to build the show for its London premiere with Camden People’s Theatre later this month.

Remote has been in development for two years, with seven stages of research, and thirteen scratch performances testing the mechanics of the game with live audiences. Our work is always developed over long periods of time, to allow it to breathe and evolve in the spaces in-between. And working with an audience as the project grows is absolutely integral. They are co-creators in the development as much as the finished work.

CM: You are known for your interactive performances. In what way is this particular piece interactive?
BH: All of our work is interactive; but Coney make a hugely diverse portfolio of projects that invite our audiences to play in drastically different ways. Sometimes you’ll experience something alone, using your smart phone, for just over two hours, and sometimes you’ll debate with over a hundred of your fellow audience members to reach a collective decision. ‘Remote’ invites you, the audience, to play by voting. By choosing to raise, or not raise a card. You’ll have complete freedom of choice. But if you don’t raise your card, it’s always the second option.

CM: What makes you want to create this kind of interactive work?
BH: It’s about giving our audiences agency. That they will have a meaningful impact on the outcome of what we’re all doing. It’s about recognising the liveness that exists in a space that we’re sharing with each other, and the potential of what we can do with that opportunity. It’s incredible if you’ve been able to join us, so we’d like to recognise that you’ve arrived. We’d like to say hello.

CM: We have covered Coney’s work a fair amount in the past, but could you tell us a bit about the company? How did it come together and what aims does it have?
BH: When Coney was born isn’t completely clear; because it was built by a group of incredible minds coming together to create some projects together and it gradually evolved. However, what we do know is that Coney became an Arts Council England National Portfolio organisation in 2012, and a registered charity in 2014. Coney is currently led by me and Tassos as joint chief executives but we’re surrounded by a truly exceptional group of people that allow it all to happen. And I’m not quite sure how we found them.

CM: Will this show tour after the run at CPT? Are there plans for further development?
BH: This show will tour – it will tour far and wide, from the smallest cupboard to the biggest shopping centre. With maybe a few churches and pubs in-between. It’s presented in London in a theatre, but its designed to be played anywhere that people gather. We’re looking forward to building some really exciting platforms around the UK, presenting the show in public space where the show can be encountered, rather than necessarily booked for.

CM: What’s next for the company?
BH: Coney have a huge body of work, we’re generally running five or six projects at once. And everything is beautifully different – you’ll never see the same thing twice. In the last month we’ve built an interactive adventure with some Year 5’s, for an adult audience, by taking over a school during the Easter holidays, and we’ve been working with communities in the North East to deliver secret loveliness operations to people who deserve to be celebrated or thanked. We’re also making an online game to accompany the National Theatre & Headlong’s ‘People, Places and Things’, which has recently transferred to the Wyndham’s Theatre in the West End. That’ll be live soon – and you can play by following this link.

There are also some things that are secret, and others that we can’t tell you about, yet. But please visit our website and sign up for our newsletter to keep up with what we do.

‘Remote’ is on at Camden People’s Theatre from 19-30 Apr. See this page here for details and to book.

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Photo: Marcos Avlonitis